Friday, February 25, 2011

Wisconsin: Ideology versus Reality

The libertarian Wil Wilkinson makes the case that public sector unions are not a very good deal; ie, not a lot of bang for the tax buck, and he may have a point. Even union employees seem to agree by their very action of negating their contract and agreeing to pay more for their pension and health care. He makes the argument that public employees are not wrangling with profitable companies for a share of the profits, but rather they are negotiating for a chunk of public funds, the "public commons." This seems like a distinction without a difference, but whatever.

Wilkinson tips his hand, however, with a moment of lucidity at the end of his piece: "Maybe it's true Wall Street schemers are amassing fortunes while contributing little of real value. Maybe the money-sucking pipeline running from the Treasury to the coffers of the military-industrial complex is an indefensible outrage. Maybe your local Toyota dealer out to cough up a few extra grand in taxes next year. Maybe it's all true. That doesn't mean that Republicans like Gov. Walker are wrong. That doesn't mean you're not getting rolled by the public sector unions."

"Maybe" it's all true? Duh. If public sector unions are two-bit thieves, then Wall Street investment bankers are... well... I was going to say Al Capone or Bonnie and Clyde, but that would be elevating the impact of such ordinary gangsters since the most poignant historic example of thievery is actually the modern day con played on us by investment bankers. Public sector unions are not the problem. Wisconsin is not having a budget crisis because teachers make too much money; their pension funds are short because Wall Street banksters took their money. Period.

Robert Reich puts it straight:

Last year, America’s top thirteen hedge-fund managers earned an average of $1 billion each. One of them took home $5 billion. Much of their income is taxed as capital gains – at 15 percent – due to a tax loophole that Republican members of Congress have steadfastly guarded.

If the earnings of those thirteen hedge-fund managers were taxed as ordinary income, the revenues generated would pay the salaries and benefits of 300,000 teachers.

And this says nothing of the trillion dollar fraud perpetrated by AIG, Goldman Sachs and others... and the other trillion dollar fraud that is the Iraq war, but I digress.

The larger plan by the Republican leaders, who have been bought by huge financial players*, as Reich says, is to "pit average working Americans against one another, distract attention from the almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and power at the top, and conceal Republican plans to further enlarge and entrench that wealth and power."

[*When are we going to get these big financial interests out of politics?]

The righteous indignation is easy to stir up over a teacher or janitor with health benefits but let's remember a few things:

1. The financial meltdown of 2008 is the primary cause of the state budget woes and unemployment. And these banksters were not union employees.

2. The credit markets did not seize up because teachers have health insurance. Silliness.

3. Not one Wall Street thief has been indicted, yet their bonuses are higher than ever.

4. There is no evidence that tax cuts to wealthy special interests in Wisconsin will spur job growth. It's a lie.

5. On the other hand, taking money out of middle-class public employees' paychecks WILL reduce economic stimulus and jobs.

6. Gov Walker is a useful idiot to the cause of special interests such as the Koch boys.

7. Even if teachers and janitors in Wisconsin are overpaid-- which they may be-- that is not the prima facie cause of the economic trouble, and even Shep Smith on Fox News admits that Gov Walker's tack has nothing to do with economics since the unions have agreed to pay for their benefits.

8. Who the hell voted for that puddin head governor? SCOTTT!

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