Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
See this article to see what happened to the $100 billion Wisconsin had put aside in school district trust funds in 2006. Was it the teachers unions who ripped them off? Oh, no, surprise surprise it was God's gift to capitalism, the wonderful financial sector and it's triple AAA crap.
Here's an article by someone who does not sympathize with a progressive agenda yet thinks the Wisconsin governor has gone too far. He doesn't like public sector unions that become too large because they act like monopolies. He denounces the idea that there would be no budget deficit were in not for the business tax cuts. But he acknowledges that the unions agreed to the accept the contribution requirements. His message: this is not about the money. What is it about then?
"It's about preserving collective bargaining and a governor who negotiates before he makes radical decisions and huge, transformative bills getting a public hearing before they are voted on. It's about 'democracy,' and it's not really a coincidence that every petty tyrant you have ever heard of from Latin America to the Middle East started by crushing the trade unions.
"Walker introduced his bill and right away said that he would not negotiate -- with anyone, about anything -- and that if the public sector workers tried to have a work action he would call in the National Guard. That was before any protests! This Governor went to Defcon 4 and started warming up his nukes before anyone had even indicated a hostile intent. How bad is it? Even the Chair of the Madison Chamber of Commerce is starting to sound a little queasy."
He also noted that public employees exempted in the bill--police and firefighters who are core Republican constituencies--are backing the protesters. He also debunked the myth that the average teacher makes more than $100,000; it's more like $56,500.
The President of the Madison Chamber of Commerce, which chambers are typically pro-business and conservative-leaning (Wisconsin notwithstanding), said this in an open email to members:
"The GMCC supports the work to address the state budget deficit and the efforts toward improving the state's economy. That support ends at the adversarial way elected officials are approaching it. Public policy issues of this magnitude should not be rushed through the legislative process. Given this state's long history of collective bargaining, policy changes of this magnitude should be thoroughly debated for an adequate period of time, in good faith by both sides, with all potential consequences considered. Currently, that is not happening."
A Common Dreams article (actually, a Yes Magazine article by Sarah van Gelder and reposted on Common Dreams) includes some reflection on Wisconsin and information about nationwide protests being organized for Saturday, Feb. 26 by U.S. Uncut:
For more information on U.S. Uncut (inspired by UK Uncut) : http://www.usuncut.org/
This article at Daily Kos claims that budgets and union busting is just a front for the Koch Brothers to get what they want. The summary:
1) Koch Brothers get their puppet Governor Walker in power
2) Governor Walker gins up a crisis
3) Democrats and Progressives take the bait and counter-protest on collective bargaining
4) Governor Walker will compromise on collective bargaining if the rest of the budget is passed as is
5) Bill passes, with trojan horse give-a-way to the Koch Brothers nested in
6) Koch Brothers will buy Wisconsin state-owned power plants for pennies on the dollar in closed unsolicitated bids for which there will be no oversight
7) Koch Brothers get the best vertical monopoly in a generation
Yeah, sounds like a conspiracy theory. But they quote the following from Senate Bill 11, bottom of p. 23:
SECTION 44. 16.896 of the statutes is created to read:
16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b).
The above section of Wisconsin Senate Bill 11 is now getting national attention. And it is now generally acknowledged to be payback to the Koch brothers, the wealthy contributors to the Governor's campaign. It becomes more obvious that the issue is not about the budget but about further enriching the wealthy while further limiting the rights and pocketbooks of the middle class. Which of course further disempowers them to do anything about the oligarchy this country is becoming. Well, has been, only now they want more, and more.
It is further becoming more obvious that the focus on public unions and middle-class workers having cush benefit packages as being the cause of the budget deficits is a smokescreen for where the real deficit is: the huge giveaways to the rich, like the above Bill and the tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy, who do not pay their fair share. Robert Reich in his article yesterday echoed Lakoff that the Democrats are helping the conservatives by accepting their frame, by accepting at least partial responsibility for the deficit, by accepting that the public workers benefits are too much, by accepting that they are in fact what is causing the budget deficit. They play right into the well orchestrated conservative plan to hide the true major causes of deficits behind this smokescreen.
Jim Wallace, Christian leader for social change, has another recent article. He makes clear that Wisconsin is not really about budget deficits but about ideological politics, and what that ideology reveals. He affirms that budgets are moral documents and that the intent behind cutting devastating and wasteful spending is certainly a moral issue. But what you cut from said budgets is also an expression of morality. This is also being played out on the national level, with the US Congress cutting the hell out of social programs without going after the big-budget items like military spending, corporate tax cuts and loopholes and long-term health care costs. He says:
"It is a direct attack on programs that help the poor and an all-out defense of the largesse handed out to big corporations and military contractors. If a budget is a moral document, these budget-cutters show that their priorities are to protect the richest Americans and abandon the poorest -- and this is an ideological and moral choice.... This is not fiscal integrity; this is hypocrisy.
"Now some members of Congress seem to want to force a government showdown over all this. They are saying there will be no shared sacrifice for the rich, only sacrifices from the poor and middle-class, or we will shut down the government. The only people whose lives have returned to normal in America are the ones who precipitated our financial and economic crisis in the first place. They have all returned to record profits,* while many others are still struggling with unemployment, stagnant wages, loss of benefits, home foreclosures and more. These representatives are claiming that we should restore fiscal integrity by protecting all the soaring billionaires, while forcing the already-squeezed to make more and more concessions."
Thank you Mr. Wallace for not falling for the false frame and telling it like it is.
* Keep in mind that the masters of Wall Street have returned to record profitability by doing the exact same scams that created the crisis. The US Congress financial reform bill was so declawed by the conservatives from its inception as to not touch those financial instruments at the root of the destruction. And now the conservative House is cutting funding to those programs, to what little oversight and enforcement there is, further leading us down the same primorse path. And it will be worse next time, but again only for the poor and middle class, not for the richest among us. We see the moral priorities here, loud and clear. And who and what are the true causes of budget deficits, let alone financial meltdowns.
Oh yeah, there's the "oh but they create jobs" rationalization. Yes, the Koch brothers create jobs. Low-paying jobs with shitty if any benefits under hazardous working conditions because they lobby to reduce environmental and labor safety laws, as well as emasculate union bargaining for such basic human rights. Yes, they create slave labor jobs while enriching themselves; what heroes of the American Dream.
We need an American novelist to portray this kind of acceptable white-collar crime, much like Charles Dickens did for England in his time.
From an e-mail sent by a San Diego Peace & Justice organization, which is planning another rally for March 19:
"Freedom is breaking out all over the Middle East and Africa. NOTICE – Requiring NO U.S. invasion/occupation!
WHAT IF – The U.S. had not invaded Iraq in 2003 and occupied it since then? The Hussein regime would have fallen along with others today, WITHOUT the cost of thousands of U.S. enlisted military, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives, about $780 billion of your taxes, and hatred of the U.S. all over the globe."