Saturday, February 19, 2011
Taking It To the Street
The gloves are off in Wisconsin. The naked ambition of the 'conservative' agenda is on full display and the Wisconsin hibernation season is abruptly ended. People are massing in the streets - they sense the desperate moments are here.
Soon, the TeaPartiers will be there, organizing against their own interests, unknowingly complicit in the attempted destruction of the American middle class. Joe the Plumber will grab a mike and another 15 minutes of unwarranted fame to be the mouthpiece of hidden vultures who wouldn't let him in the back door, much less the front door, without a security screen and a background investigation. Another useful idiot who will do the dirty work of fronting for this generation's robber barons. Mission accomplished.
The Fox Network will crank the propaganda into overdrive until people's heads vibrate with a few well-chosen talking points repeated endlessly by their unfair and unbalanced talking heads as if it were apocalypse now (hello, Glen). In the process, teachers, nurses, secretaries, firefighters, police officers, road maintenance workers, sanitation workers, accounting clerks will be vilified as responsible for the imbalance in the economy. You can almost hear the chattering class gearing up in the distance.
Confession: I am a public employee. I work with other public employees and have for decades. As a management employee, I am not in a formal union now (but have been previously). We are an informal collective bargaining group. We function as a union and our representatives have many meetings to reach a memorandum of understanding on our working conditions. It's called negotiating. It means give and take. It means reaching mutually agreeable settlement in light of current conditions. It's not what is happening in Wisconsin. What is happening there is a unilateral assault on unions and, by extension, the political party they historically support.
I've tried to write my way out of this, but words are failing me. The bad apples in the public sector (see Bell, California) have most certainly tainted people's thoughts about public employees. That lingering taint is the fertilizer for those who would blame unions and public pensions for the current economic meltdown. Granted, times change and it's necessary to revisit wages and benefits in light of current realities. That's what negotiations are expressly able to do. But the scale of the Bell corruption does not compare to the ginormous ripoff of the credit default swap scam courtesy of Wall Street or the housing bubble or the cost of two wars that were never funded the old-fashioned way (with tax increases).
So, while the truly greedy continue unabated by any new regulation, picking on the dozing middle class appeared to be as easy as gathering the low hanging fruit. At least that what's they thought until Wisconsin. The intensity of this current political theater, with the teabag brigade approaching, will be compelling and tense. The last act may dictate an historic sea change one way or the other in this country. Stay tuned and stay safe.
PS - This year, after months of considering the current economic climate, my group took a 5% cut requested by upper management. Our group chose the method of reduction - options included increased contributions to pension, increased contributions to health insurance costs, or pay cut. That's called negotiating - a practice the governor of Wisconsin is not willing to even discuss.
Photo Credit: AP Photo - Racine, Wisconsin
Tune: Michael McDonald - a favorite from the Doobie era