Monday, March 14

Hard Times in the Heartland of Plenty

Wisconsin killed collective bargaining, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio are lined up to try to do the same. Michigan is asserting state rights over local governance and taxing the poor and aged to bail out corporations. While 2012 presidential Queen-wannabe Michelle Bachmann is pointing to the lessons of Lexington and Concord, real attention should be paid to the tyranny that is taking hold in the heartland. As Omar and the Howlers once said it's, "Hard times in the land of plenty."

Clearly there is nowhere else in the US that is experiencing the radical notions that Republican leaders in the Midwest have been successfully espousing and spearheading through their legislatures. In the name of balancing budgets and job creation, these leaders have put into play laws that will likely lead to less economic stability and more strains on state coffers. And for what? Retribution, an attempted power-grab, or genuine belief that these remedies will benefit all?

Whatever their reasoning, their Charlie Sheen-like attempts at "winning" are coming at great cost to the people who do the work, union and non-union alike. By changing the landscape, the sum total is that workers and management have reverted to the more adversarial past that led to violence when reasonable accommodation couldn't be reached. To de-evolve back to this old world view is likely to create a free market caste-system that has no connection to democratic values.

There is cause and effect for anything we do and, had we not already tried what is being re-enacted, it might be seen as worth doing. However American history tells us that when the rights of any group are suppressed or overtaxed, eventually the main street American agrees that it is wrong. In this case, it is clear that main street already agrees that their government is over-reaching and since they have nothing to show for their votes, the political pendulum will swiftly go back the other way.

Tuesday, March 1

The Way We War

While parts of the world seem hell-bent on democratizing themselves, here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are marching steadfastly in the opposite direction. Case in point, the current brouhaha in Wisconsin. This has never really been about a state budget crisis, it is about making sure that monied interests are the once and future ruling class. Ever since the Supreme Court decision giving corporations relative carte blance to buy elections and the politicians that do the dirty work, American families earning less than $250,000 have been put on notice: "This land is not your land."

If you haven't noticed, the desire to strip the public employees of collective bargaining is akin to bringing back feudalism. Without the right to bargain for fair wages and work conditions, it is opening the doors to go back to the bad old days when workers' rights were met with brickbats. Notice the difference in approaches, the unions call on people to protest and they show up, the governor calls out the state police and threatens to weld the windows to the state house closed to keep people from helping each other.

In the US, we have been engaged in class warfare for as long as we thought about being a republic. Federal rights and states rights have never been about you and me, but what is best for the ruling class/monied interests. Wealthy landowners were afraid what would happen to them if the riff-raff came after them and wanted to make sure that the game was skewed in their favor, hence why a bill of rights was an afterthought.

In representative democracy there is one vote for each of us, but somebody else doing our bidding. The wishes of the people are carried out through democratic processes. However, as the road to representative democracy is paved with a money trail, the messages that people use to get themselves elected are skillfully crafted by people who sell us the American Dream (and if you don't recall what the late George Carlin said, let me remind you "they call it the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it."). The point is, our voices are a distant memory by the time lobbying interests go to work on your Mr. or Mrs. Smith.

Electoral politics is also served by the ability to drive wedges between natural allies. For instance, are teachers the enemy of the people in Wisconsin? Of course not. But you would think they were breaking into the homes of other folks and stealing their prized possessions. This is the way the war is fought, divide and conquer. And, by the way, what do politicians call it when people act against their own self-interest--a mandate.

To those who doubt what I am saying, think about this: if unions are the last bastion of organized workers and they are removed from the equation, what is to stop employers from changing your benefits package, your salary, and your job security? If workplaces become revolving doors where it is the survival of the cheapest, who wins? If you've been awake, you already know the answer. Look to your left, look to your right, and then look at the mirror--it isn't you.