October 17, 2017

Walker Drops a Bomb

“Elections have consequences!

This was the refrain heard many times over the last two weeks in support of Governor Scott Walker‘s attempt to destroy collective bargaining for unions that don’t support conservative Republicans. Scott Walker ran for office promising to take away the right of unions to bargain, he won and thats how democracy works. Sounds pretty straightforward.

Senator Lindsey Graham asserted it on MEET THE PRESS:

Graham: In a democracy, when you run on something, you do have an obligation to fulfill your promise. He didn’t take anybody by surprise, he’s doing exactly what he said. There was a referendum on this issue and the unions lost, and the Democrats in Wisconsin should come back to Wisconsin to have votes.

Like this one, Walker supporters shouted to the TV cameras: “”We did have an election and Scott Walker won,” said Deborah Arndt, 53, of Sheboygan Falls. “I think our governor will stand strong. I have faith in him.”

George Will echoed the falsehood on ABC THIS WEEK:

WILL: Governor Walker was elected promising to do what he’s doing. He did the same thing as county executive in Milwaukee.

It may be understandable as to why Graham and Will made false assertions. Governor Walker himself made the very same assertion soon after the controversy began:
“I campaigned on (the proposals in the budget repair bill for Wisconsin) all throughout the election. Anybody who says they are shocked on this has been asleep for the past two years.”
….Scott Walker on Monday, February 21st, 2011 in a news conference

Really? Asleep? Is this a promise Walker made to voters when he ran for office? As I pointed out last week I couldn’t find the pledge to ban collective bargaining or disembowel union abilities to monitor members anywhere in his fact sheet on matters concerning labor. He did promise to make unions more responsible for payments to health and retirement plans, something the unions agreed to do some time ago.

Now after extensive investigation Politifact weighs in:

For this item, we reviewed dozens of news accounts and various proposals on Walker’s campaign website to determine what he said about collective bargaining during the campaign. We talked to both campaigns in the governor’s race, and union officials.

During the campaign, Walker prided himself on presenting many specific proposals to voters. Our Walk-O-Meter includes 60-plus specific promises. Indeed, his plans for the state Department of Natural Resources include at least seven specific elements, including appointment of a “whitetail deer trustee” to review deer counts.

But nowhere in our search did we find any such detailed discussion of collective bargaining changes as sweeping as Walker proposed.

…..Walker contends he clearly “campaigned on” his union bargaining plan.

But Walker, who offered many specific proposals during the campaign, did not go public with even the bare-bones of his multi-faceted plans to sharply curb collective bargaining rights. He could not point to any statements where he did. We could find none either.

While Walker often talked about employees paying more for pensions and health care, in his budget-repair bill he connected it to collective bargaining changes that were far different from his campaign rhetoric in terms of how far his plan goes and the way it would be accomplished.

We rate his statement False.

Andrew Sullivan echoed one of the points I made here last week:

If you campaign on one platform and then suddenly up the ante, you cannot cite democracy in your defense. And there is something bizarre about Republican commentators who cheered on Tea Party protests against a clear Obama campaign pledge – health insurance reform – suddenly decrying public protests against something a politician didn’t campaign on….Andrew Sullivan

Candidate Obama and Democrats ran for office promising major overhauls in medical insurance and healthcare reform. The President and his party delivered on their campaign promise. Conservatives at the time didn’t accept the consequences of elections. They claimed healthcare reform was ‘rammed down their throats’, ‘unAmerican’, ‘unconstitutional’.

In his taped conversation with the Faux Koch Walker explained how he and his advisors concocted their secret plan: “We talked about what we were going to do, how we were going to do it. We had already built plans up. This was kind of the last hurrah before we dropped the bomb.

Who drops bombs on unsuspecting Americans?

POLITIFACT

Meet the New Boss

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin was punked by a caller from the Buffalo Beast posing as billionaire David Koch who has spent millions of his inherited wealth to fight against worker rights, unions and oversight of big business. He is the 19th richest man in America and thinks he pays too much in taxes. Listen as Governor Walker discusses his plans to destroy the union, manipulate the issue and remain in silent agreement with ‘Faux Koch’ discussing Democratic ‘bastards’ and ‘baseball bats’.

You have to hear this…

Walker talks to David Koch, billionaire financier of the Tea Party

Koch: [Laughs] Well, I tell you what, Scott: once you crush these bastards I’ll fly you out to Cali and really show you a good time.

Walker: All right, that would be outstanding.

They also talk about ‘planting’ troublemakers among the demonstrators. Scott says he thought about doing it…but decided against it. (Echoes of Nixon: “We could do that…but that would be wrong”). Unlike Nixon Walker doesn’t have enough moral fiber to even acknowledge that it would be wrong!

I talk to Kasich every day — John’s gotta stand firm in Ohio. I think we could do the same thing with Rick Scott in Florida. I think, uh, Snyder — if he got a little more support — probably could do that in Michigan. You start going down the list there’s a lot of us new governors that got elected to do something big.”

“You’re the first domino,” fake Koch said.

“Yep. This is our moment,” said Walker.

Today Wisconsin…Tomorrow the world!

And can you trust Walker? Here is his sneaky plan to subvert the Democratic walkout:

“An interesting idea that was brought up to me by my chief of staff, we won’t do it until tomorrow, is putting out an appeal to the Democratic leader. I would be willing to sit down and talk to him, the assembly Democrat leader, plus the other two Republican leaders–talk, not negotiate and listen to what they have to say if they will in turn–but I’ll only do it if all 14 of them will come back and sit down in the state assembly. They can recess it… the reason for that, we’re verifying it this afternoon, legally, we believe, once they’ve gone into session, they don’t physically have to be there. If they’re actually in session for that day, and they take a recess, the 19 Senate Republicans could then go into action and they’d have quorum because it’s turned out that way. So we’re double checking that. If you heard I was going to talk to them that’s the only reason why. We’d only do it if they came back to the capitol with all 14 of them. My sense is, hell. I’ll talk. If they want to yell at me for an hour, I’m used to that. I can deal with that. But I’m not negotiating.”

So the Governor is pretending to be reasonable and sitting down to talk with Democrats. But its a trick. An ambush. A slick and deceptive manipulation. Meanwhile the real David Koch had the group he finances announce a buy of more than $300,000 in television advertising supporting Walker against the public workers of Wisconsin.

WISCONSIN: The State of the Unions


“Fire a couple of rounds of rubber bullets into that crowd. That’ll take care of those demonstrators in Wisconsin,” opined the loudmouth swimmer in the pool at my condo. He’s from the same city as Carl Palladino with the same crude and bellicose manner. “A couple of rounds of rubber bullets will teach ‘em a lesson,” he bellows loudly, bouncing up and down in the pool as if addressing everyone poolside. He’s the same guy who brags about what he’ll do to a burgler with the .45 on the nightstand next to his bed and complains about Obama and the socialists ruining the country. I never respond. I come to swim and relax in the sun.

Among the other comments I’ve heard over the last few days are:

“They should’ve never been allowed to organize in the first place.”
“We need someone to do what Reagan did when he busted the Air Traffic Controllers union.”
“Unions were good at one time but we don’t need ’em anymore. They’ve outlived their usefulness.”

So let’s not pussyfoot around the issue. This isn’t about pensions or healthcare contributions. It isn’t about the deficit or the recession. It isn’t even about the election (although Governor Walker collected endorsements from the Milwaukee Police Association, the West Allis Professional Police Association, the Milwaukee Professional Firefighters and the Wisconsin Troopers Association during his campaign and they are state workers exempt from his new limitations. What a coincidink!).

It’s about an ideology with a goal to destroy unions.

Union leaders conceded to the Governor and legislature’s plan on financial matters last week. They agreed to the difficult concessions required by fiscal hard times. What they will not and cannot concede is the right of their workers to collective negotiation. Without it a union is not a union. It is a fraternal organization.

What Governor Walker proposes is to strip some municipal unions of any right to negotiate ANYTHING other than salary and that to cap even that right to CPI index. In effect even that negotiation is now negligible. He would also allow workers to enjoy the benefits of union membership without paying “fair share” dues. This would essentially contribute to destroying the union (why pay dues when you get benefits for free?)

I watched FOXNEWS Friday and Saturday to understand how this organization would frame this. They did so in their usual fashion: They lied. They presented it as an issue of union intractability on contributing to pension and medical funds even though unions had already agreed to do so. By Sunday this lie became to unsupportable even for FoxNews and they began to reframe. Now the issue was about phoney doctor’s notes and the Tea Party counter demonstration. Although 70,000 turned out to demonstrate against Walker and only 2,000 showed up from the Tea Party they became equal expressions of discontent.

Rush Limbaugh called unionized workers “bottom feeding freeloaders” “using children as human shields”. Who are the real workers of America? “Real Working Non-Unionized People” he proclaimed on Friday, Feb. 18th. He also mocked protestors who compared their political solidarity with those who took to the streets in Egypt complaining that such a comparison could only be made by an ‘idiot’.. Perhaps he will change his mind when he discovers that Republican Paul Ryan was the first to make this comparison on national television. (“It’s like Cairo’s moved to Madison these days,” Ryan said on MSNBC. “All of this demonstration … it’s fine. People should be able to express their way.” Feb 17.) Doesn’t Limbaugh do the minimum of homework before he goes on the air?

What constantly bemuses me is how Teabaggers can become incensed about an employee who spent years on an advanced degree of education receiving a salary of 48,000 a year (with healthcare, pension, vacation etc benefits of $24,000). Yet there has not been one protest against the financial wizards who walked away with hundreds of millions while destroying the American economy…Guides like Limbaugh and Dick Armey and FoxNews point them in the wrong direction at every turn, I guess.

But some unions, the ones who supported Walker politically and help him practically (by hunting down wayward Democrats) i.e. the Wisconsin Troopers’ Association and the police and firefighters’ statewide unions issued statements praising the Governor for recognizing their jobs are more important and thus their unions should be exempted from destruction.

I recognize that some unions have been guilty of corruption. As I stated in previous posts on this site I also favor sensible caps on union pensions and rules that prevent egregious abuses on how those pensions are calculated. But for a movement that derided Rahm Emanuel’s suggestion to ‘Never let a crisis go to waste’ the radicals of the Tea Party are quick to embrace this philosophy. This is not about solving the problem of statewide deficits. From the beginning their rhetoric has been anti-worker, anti-union, strangely recognizing only ‘capital providers’ as ‘THE PRODUCERS’. Capital investment is surely a necessary, central element of the American economy but it is labor that actually accomplishes production so it is an odd way to label the components. FoxNews would have its viewers frame this issue as ‘the unions vs. the taxpayers’, not even acknowledging that union workers pay taxes themselves.

I support the concept that a crisis can provide an opportunity, to learn, to change, to readjust how things are done. But when there is corporate corruption or abuse we don’t attempt to abolish corporations. We attempt to remedy the corruption and abuse to prevent ongoing damage.

As to the Democrats who absconded from the legislature, it may certainly seem hypocritical for those who decried the obstructionism of a Republican minority over the last two years to now applaud the obstructionism of Democratic representatives. But likewise, those that applaud and admire representation that will not yield on core principle (as I often hear Teabaggers assert) should understand the support many give to these 14 representatives. I sent money to support their efforts last Friday.

Surely, elections do have their repercussions and effects. And Walker and Republican legislators were elected in 2010. But they ran on platforms of fiscal responsibility not on promises to obliterate unions entirely. Politifact has a chart of Governor Walker’s campaign promises concerning education. Look at it and tell me which one justifies stripping the union of collective bargaining rights:

http://politifact.com/wisconsin/promises/walk-o-meter/subjects/education/

On the other hand, Obama DID run on a promise to initiate health insurance reform and he did win his election as did Democrats in both houses. Yet Republicans acted like they were surprised when Democrats fulfilled their promise. To Republicans healthcare reform was “rammed down our throats” and they virulently opposed his fulfillment of that promise. If Walker had run on a platform of abolishing unions and then fulfilled that promise one might say he was fulfilling his pledge to the voters. But he didn’t do that.

I should reveal that I am a proud member of three unions. Throughout my years in broadcasting my unions have supported me when I needed support as an actor or a broadcaster. I am such an ardent union member that I have paid my dues to every union twice annually for forty years though I could have taken a leave of absence during those hard times when I was not working. That’s how strongly I feel an obligation to union membership. It’s also true that for many years I made so much money in my profession that I probably had more direct power as an individual negotiator than I did as a union member. But I did not forget how purposeful and important union membership was to my career and my life.

It is undeniable that there are 13 states that prohibit or restrict collective bargaining by teachers and other state employees. It is interesting to note that most of those states have budget SHORTFALLS. A handful of them have deficits of 20% to make up somehow EVEN WITHOUT UNION WORKERS. Its also an historical fact that Franklin Roosevelt, perhaps our most pro-labor president was extremely wary of allowing municipal workers to unionize. Teddy Roosevelt’s most succinct statement supporting labor organization is mute on the organization of public employees: “It is essential that there should be organization of labor. This is an era of organization. Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize.”

Yet it is also an ironic fact that Wisconsin was the very first state to authorize the collective bargaining rights of public employees and workers in many other states fought hard over years to follow in securing that right. That was in 1959, more than fifty years ago when Eisenhower was president. It is a right with more history than the right of interracial marriage, integration of public enterprise, the right to counsel in a courtroom and a woman’s right to choose.

Madison, Wisconsin was the birthplace of the Sixties Anti-war movement and the subject of a documentary film called THE WAR AT HOME. That movement spread across the country, galvanizing others, energizing millions.

Perhaps the rallying events of the past week will inspire a sequel.