You might ask yourself, as one does from time to time, “What’s going on in the world right now?” I recommend you check out what’s going on in Bahrain and Libya especially because there are a lot of pictures of people burned to death or with their brains lying next to them and it’s super fucked up. There are, however, some pretty important things going on right here on the home-front, also; for instance, the shit going down right now in Wisconsin, where government employees are protesting the governor’s plan to fuck them over.
On face, this is a question of balancing the state budget in Wisconsin. The question is, “Should Wisconsin balance its budget by making state workers take a hit to their pensions and health care plans?” But like most things politicians (and especially Republicans) talk about, the rhetoric doesn’t match the reality; though the plan does say that state workers need to take pay cuts, pay more towards their pensions themselves and pay higher insurance premiums, this is not even remotely a question of the budget. Don’t get me wrong, this definitely would save a little money, and workers actually agreed to bite the bullet when it comes to pay cuts. The main concern is that the proposed bill also would strip unions of their rights to negotiate on issues that aren’t even pay-related, like safety standards.
Troubling as that is, you could still argue that this measure will save the state some money in the future, I guess. After all, making sure workers don’t die in a fire or something costs money. But as the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Agency points out, “some provisions … don’t make sense, unless the basic intent is to bust unions.” For example the bill says that employers can’t subtract union dues from paychecks. (Usually union dues get taken right out of paychecks, like your taxes do, to make life easier for the worker.) But the bill wants the union to have to run down its members for money, and theoretically increases hardship for the worker. Another part of the bill says that unions have to organize and pay for expensive elections every single year. The way it stands right now, if the union wants to change leadership, members just make a petition, and then the Wisconsin Employment Relations Committee pays for it. These unnecessary processes are just a way to bleed the unions of energy, time, and money.
I wish it stopped there, but there are at least like three layers of bullshit left. A few news outlets have already made the connection between Wisconsin’s Republican governor and the Koch brothers, the governor’s second-biggest financial backers (biggest by some counts). Charles and David Koch are basically the worst dudes ever. These Texan oil baron billionaires have a long history of trying to put the beat down on unions through their think tanks (they also fight any and all anti-pollution laws, the healthcare reform law, the stimulus–anything that threatens to help poor people).
And why shouldn’t they fight unions? Unions, whatever you think of them, are the only counterbalance against corporations in American politics. Money and organization win elections. Corporations have both. Middle class and poor workers generally don’t –unless they’re in a union. If the Kochs (and other rich folk and corporate interests) bust up all the unions, they’re free to use the government leaders in their pockets to loot the country.
So not only are Wisconsin Republicans just trying to bust unions at the expense of the middle class, but they’re doing it (at least partially) so that two rich individuals can get even richer. Not too cool. And it gets much worse. The bill has a section that says that the governor can sell all the state’s heating, cooling, and power plants to “a private entity… for any amount… without solicitation of bids…,” meaning that the Koch brothers will be able to snatch up all the state’s power plants for pennies on the dollar.
Seriously, what the fuck?
Why would a state that’s genuinely worried about its budget include a section in a bill that gives the governor permission to basically give away public property without any fucking bidding? Why not just say, “Oh yeah, and there has to be bidding,” instead? Boom. Done. That way the state gets the highest price. Obviously, Walker doesn’t want the highest price–he wants the price that Davie and Charlie Koch want to pay.
Alright, so some of this is my own speculation, but it makes sense when you consider 3 things:
1) The Kochs bankrolled Walker’s election. If you don’t think a politician will sell out just to get the money he or she needs to get elected, just think about virtually every politician ever.
2) Walker’s bill intentionally makes it easy for the governor to give away public utilities to whomever he wants, for whatever price he wants.
3) The Kochs already own big companies in Wisconsin that control energy resources and distribution; owning the power plants would give the Kochs what is called a “vertical monopoly.” They would control every step of making energy from digging fuel out of the ground, to pumping it to a refinery, to refining it, to using it to make energy, to zapping it out of your walls into your elitist Macs (yes, I barely know how electricity works).
Governor Walker’s allegiance to the Kochs was made apparent in a prank call conducted by Buffalo Beast editor Ian Murphy who called the Govenor pretending to be David Koch. During the conversation, Walker spoke derisively about the workers and expressed absolutely no concern about issuing massive layoffs. (Two Wisconsin senate Republicans have since proposed a bill banning prank calls, which would impose a fine of $1,000 to $10,000 per prank phone call.)
What I think is really important here, though, are two things:
1) Politics fucking matter goddammit! If there were still strong unions in this country and no big monopolies or oligopolies, you might be making $10 an hour at your shitty job instead of $7. And you might pay less for heating at your off-campus house, or less money for cable, which is a ripoff.
2) Despite superficial distinctions between Democrats and Republicans, both parties have members who are more concerned with staying in power than providing for their constituents. If you think Republicans currently in power are all about the “free market” and Democrats all about destroying America by supporting unions and welfare, you might want to reevaluate your outlook.
But seriously, what if we all agreed to care just half as much about things that happen in real life as we did about who the Knicks signed? We could go all Obama on everyone’s ass, but actually manage to change something.