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Guest Thinkers

Wisconsin Governor Hopes Unions Settle For A Dollar A Day And A Bowl Of Rice

The Republican Party has declared war on public servants in the United States the same way Middle East dictators have declared war on political dissidents. Members of the GOP like Scott Wilson, the governor of Wisconsin, want the people of Wisconsin to believe that the people who keep their communities safe, their houses from burning down, their kids educated and their trash picked up on time are nothing more than sniveling spoiled brats who should be thankful if they get to work for anything more than a dollar a day and a bowl of rice.

The disgusting, ginned up statistics that American citizen haters like Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell faithfully trot out whenever they try to explain how public servants are getting rich by working for state or federal government always fail to note that the private sector wages against which they are compared haven’t risen very much at all over the last 40 years when adjusted for inflation. The wage decreases for public employees in Wisconsin are being sought just weeks after tax decreases to the corporate sector that were pushed through the Wisconsin legislature by Governor Wilson and the GOP legislative majority.

To add insult to injury, the Wisconsin Republicans have taken a page right out of the Hosni Mubarack handbook, suppressing public employees right to organize or collectively bargain the same way Mubarack and other dictators of his ilk seek to silence their political opposition.

Is this what leadership looks like? Is this what America’s future holds, when our state leaders constantly demean, disparage and denigrate the very citizenry who keep our municipalities functioning?

As I’ve written here recently, when Newt Gingrich tried to set the stage for this with his “states need to file bankruptcy” editorial a few weeks ago, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the median annual salary for nearly 2.3 million workers who work for state agencies and state government is $49,240.

Whenever I see the words “union boss”, though, I will have to admit that Jimmy Hoffa and his crooked, self serving agenda as head of the Teamsters immediately come to mind. Even though each type of state employee union has different administrators, each with their own idiosyncratic take on how the world should work, in this instance, understanding how little power an individual worker usually has against the institution that employs him, I will have to err on the side of caution and take their side in this labor dispute.  

I hope the public servants and their supporters in Wisconsin stay in the state house the same way those protestors in Egypt did – until their own dictator that the less enlightened half of their state elected is recalled or resigns. Putting more money into corporate coffers, as we can see even as I write this, does not translate into more jobs but into more money on corporate balance sheets, proving a corollary I have advanced for some time – the rich do not spend enough money to keep our economy going.

The fantasy of any wannbe plutocrat in training is that money alone is the magic ingredient that a business needs to be successful. But as a co-worker of mine used to say, “this dope won’t smoke itself.” Machines don’t run themselves. Packages don’t deliver themselves. Products don’t assemble themselves. And in the case of state government, police cars don’t drive themselves, fire hoses don’t uncoil themselves, taxes don’t collect themselves, roads don’t repair themselves and children damn sure can’t teach themselves.  

The magic ingredient in this country or any other is people. And in case any conservative who suffers from kneejerk reactions to anything other than the “make my master more money” mantra he has been indoctrinated with by the Daddy Warbucks figures who run the GOP happens to be reading this, the United States of America is by definition a collective of states which has derived its strength and standing in world affairs by pooling portions of each state’s individual resources, resources that all ultimately are derived from individuals who have decided “we are in this together.” 

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

Abraham Lincoln

Maybe Scott Walker will realize by the middle of next week, when this hasn’t blown over, that his state employees are not interested in working for a dollar a day and a bowl of rice. The quickest way to get Wisconsin citizens to turn into the insistent mobs who toppled Egypt’s government is to keep dreaming up these kind of ridiculous political shenanigans.


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