Painting and Corners in Wisconsin

Obama Administration

Right now, you can find people on both sides of the Wisconsin public employee union impasse who declare the other side has painted itself into a corner. And that’s probably true, although I would argue that it was Gov. Scott who provided most of the paint and determined where the corners were. In any event, it probably is the case that whoever blinks now will be Public Enemy Number One to somebody.

The question is, who has got the least to lose from blinking?

According to a poll cited by Nate Silver — who also explains why Rasmussen polls should be ignored henceforth — a slight majority of Wisconsin residents support the public workers union over Gov. Walker. They’re not happy with the Democrats, either, but they don’t want the union busted.

So, I would argue that any Republicans in the state legislature whose constituents are mostly pro-union have the least to lose by coming up with a workable compromise. Of course, it’s also true that one of the exiled Senate Democrats whose constituents are mostly anti-union (they’re elected from senatorial districts, Wikipedia says) would have some strong incentive to blink, also.

However, the guy with the most to lose might be Gov. Walker. If he succeeds in busting the unions, he will immediately become the Right’s fair-haired darling and, I predict, catapulted into becoming a serious contender for the 2012 presidential nomination.

But if he blinks, to the teabaggers he would be persona non grata from then on. So yeah, there’s lots of painting-themselves-into-corners going on in Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, the New York Times is running an article by A. G. Sulzberger, of the New York Times-owning Sulzbergers, that suggests union workers in Wisconsin support Gov. Walker. But if you read the article, what you see are a few people — only one of whom is a union member — who are unemployed or under-employed expressing resentment of public employee salaries and benefits.

Again, instead of anger at the failure of the private sector to sustain economic growth and good jobs, they’re conditioned to resent people who still have good jobs. This tells us that the one rousing success story in the U.S. is about rightie propaganda.

The New York Times today is virtually roiling with the Wisconsin issue. Eric Lipton writes about the role the Koch brothers’ money is playing in Wisconsin, for example.

Naturally, David Brooks has a column actually headlined “Make Everybody Hurt,” in which he lauds Gov. Walker and other “debt fighters” as “founding fathers of austerity.” Unreal.

On the other hand, Bob Herbert talks about the people who really are hurting, which is just about everyone who isn’t being interviewed on Fox News these days. Herbert writes,

The true extent of the economic devastation, and the enormous size of that portion of the population that is being left behind, has not yet been properly acknowledged. What is being allowed to happen to those being pushed out or left out of the American mainstream is the most important and potentially most dangerous issue facing the country.

I don’t think “make everybody hurt” is the proper response to that issue. And you’ll notice that most of the people, like David Brooks, who are extolling the virtues of “hurting” don’t seem to be hurting themselves.

This is a dangerous issue, and it’s a dangerous game the puppet masters are playing. Unfortunately, too many of the peasants suffer Stockholm Syndrome and would rather defend Marie Antoinette than storm the Bastille.

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  1. biggerbox  •  Feb 22, 2011 @11:45 am

    The path out of the corner for Democrats may be to successfully drag out the process long enough to give people time to actually look at the bill. It seems Walker was hoping to jam the thing through quickly, and is still on the radio talking about how urgent it is to get passed right away. Which makes me wonder how much more is hidden in this bill that he doesn’t want looked at before it’s passed. Rortybomb suggests there’s a passage allowing the no-bid sale of power plants without involvement of the public service commission, which would be a sweet opportunity for the Koch brothers. I wonder what else is lurking?

    Given that it usually takes a week or two before something percolates up from smart bloggers to mainstream “journalists”, I suggest the Democratic state senators make plans for really taking in ALL of Chicago’s many attractions.

    By the way, I read somewhere that Abraham Lincoln once scampered to prevent a quorum in the Illinois legislature. I’ll have to track that down… seems like a good fact to have handy.

  2. c u n d gulag  •  Feb 22, 2011 @12:11 pm

    It doesn’t matter who blinks first. They’ve moved the Overton Window further to the right, which is what this is really all about.
    Even if the workers in WI win, every Republican candidate for Governor in this country will now adopt this stance. It will become part of their mantra, and the MSM will continue to sit on the sideilnes, or, like the execrable Brooks, side with the government against the workers. It seems ironic that all of these anit-government pundits, and even their Teabagger rubes, side with it, but when voters are stupid, they can do this as long as they want.
    So, on top of their usual ‘divide and conquer’ tactic of pitting the middle vs. the poor, and the white vs. the non-white, and straight vs. gay, they can now work on creating infighting in what’s left of the middle. Those old divisive issues will always be around.
    And now, as a consequence, the people scream, “Good pay, good benefits, and a decent pension! How dare those greedy bastards!” If people had any brains, they’d want the same for themselves. But in a nation of chickens who dutifully line up for slaughter to the oligarchical ‘Col. Sanders’ corporations, you can’t expect anything like a movement – just chicken pieces. And the corporations don’t care whether the meat is white or dark, or middle or poor, or straight or gay, it all the same to them. We’re all meat as far as the oligarch’s are concerned.

  3. moonbat  •  Feb 22, 2011 @1:29 pm

    From what I’ve read elsewhere, both sides are polarized and compromise is unlikely. Walker has already threatened to up the ante by calling in the National Guard, or laying off thousands of workers. I’m waiting to see if the protestors can meet that raise by calling a general strike. This would force Obama to intervene.

    I have no idea how well-known the dirty machinations of the Koch brothers are to the Wisconsin population regarding the intended closed, no-bid sale of the power plants. This is political dynamite that would blow the lid off the impasse were it widely known.

  4. muldoon  •  Feb 22, 2011 @1:36 pm

    “This is political dynamite that would blow the lid off the impasse were it widely known.”

    Where can one get or read a copy of the bill?

  5. maha  •  Feb 22, 2011 @2:14 pm

    The text of pending legislation can be found on the website of the Wisconsin legislature, but I don’t know which bill is the one we’re discussing. If someone else could find it, I would be grateful.

    Update: I think this is it.

  6. moonbat  •  Feb 22, 2011 @1:43 pm

    @biggerbox – here’s a link to the story about Abe Lincoln and his fellow Whigs avoiding showing up, to forestall a quorum, to defeat a bill pushed by the opposing Democrats. It didn’t work, only because they didn’t have cars or modern transportation in those days. But it’s a very handy fact, thank you for telling us about it.

  7. Jayonas  •  Feb 22, 2011 @2:03 pm

    Here’s a link I saw to a copy of the bill. I haven’t looked through it myself yet, but the Facebook comment I got it from pointed out page 24 as the part about no-bid sales of power plants, which looks accurate.

  8. Felicity  •  Feb 22, 2011 @2:17 pm

    Unfortunately (for them) like the fish who doesn’t know it’s in water until it’s out of it, tea party types won’t know they’re part of the politically and economically dis-enfranchised class until they find themselves in it.

    Looking and listening to them they’re obviously part of the American middle class which was created when 35% of the work force was unionized, 1954. Decline since then (to 12% now) has been accompanied by growing social inequality, slashed salaries, and a de-linking of rising productivity from rising wages. Fighting unions, the tea party people are digging their own graves.

  9. Swami  •  Feb 22, 2011 @4:03 pm

    The question is, who has got the least to lose from blinking?

    Walker has the least to lose. Even if he fails on his attempt to further enslave the working poor and carry the Reagan mantle forward, he’ll still come out smelling like a rose to the wingnuts. He’ll be a modern day David who had the courage to champion the Conservative/Corporate cause. The wingnuts aren’t going to see any fault in Walker…They’ll just see his dedication and commitment to their cause, and his courage to stand against the evil unions and the forces of liberalism. I pray that the people of Wisconsin have their eyes opened and see what a tragic mistake will be made if Walker and his minions succeed in destroying the power of working class people.

  10. maha  •  Feb 22, 2011 @5:26 pm

    he’ll still come out smelling like a rose to the wingnuts.

    I don’t think so; the movement conservative establishment might forgive him, but the teabaggers will not. They smell victory, which is to say they smell disaster and ruin and mistake it for victory, and they will accept nothing less. Or more, depending on how you look at it.

  11. LongHairedWeirdo  •  Feb 22, 2011 @4:53 pm

    From what I’ve read elsewhere, both sides are polarized and compromise is unlikely.

    Technically, yes, both sides are polarized.

    The unions are being told “we want you to stand still while we smack you in the face with a sledgehammer.”

    The unions are saying “we can talk about wages and benefits, but fuck-no to the sledgehammer.”

    So, yes, in that sense, the are polarized. Unions are dead set against the sledgehammer to the face, and the governor is dead set on it. But that’s not a really fair way of looking at things.

  12. uncledad  •  Feb 22, 2011 @5:40 pm

    I heard from a friend on the inside of the union debate here in Indiana that our Gov. has has scaled back his assault on unions here, word is the protests in Madison made him think twice!

  13. moonbat  •  Feb 22, 2011 @5:49 pm

    Chilling comment by someone from Minnesota, writing at the Agonist:

    I was there to show solidarity with the, at least 30,000 who stood shivering outside. Too packed to get inside. Wow, what an amazing vibe.

    The legislation being considered by Walker was crafted, in whole, by the Koch Brothers. It is the same legislation that is being rolled out in Iowa, Indiana, Ohio and others. A carefully crafted piece of legislation that could likely get through the supreme court (and probably vetted by Scalia when he attended the Koch Brothers retreat in Florida).

    Imagine how the Koch Brothers have created the Tea Party, an astroturf organization. How they have managed to infiltrate the Supreme Court and gut legislation that prevents corporations from spending unlimited funds in elections (through another organization called the Federalists). How they followed with, essentially, the purchase of state governments throughout the Midwest. And now in the States they have managed to BUY, begin a process of pushing through legislation that guts the collective bargaining rights of Unions.

    If this is not pure evil, I do not know what is.

    Does anyone recall what it was in George Orwell’s Animal House that made the pigs finally and truly evil? It was when after years of promising their most loyal public servant, the horse, of a long retirement in a beautiful pasture. How they at the time of his retirement sold him to the glue factory.

    If a society that produces such wealth cannot abide by its promises to its public servants, those governments do not deserve to remain. Interestingly, Wisconsin has a recall mechanism for its elected officials after one year. The petitions were going around for eight Republican Senators (I think they were Senators). If enough petitions are signed then a recall is in effect and they must face an election. If a few lost, it would turn the tide. This is truly make or break.

    The recall Walker effort is also going to be made, but his recall cannot occur until next year.

    The Koch brothers tried to buy Minnesota as well, but by the skin our teeth they failed. We would be facing the same thing. the force of unlimited corporate money in Statehouses is truly toxic.

  14. Swami  •  Feb 22, 2011 @6:36 pm

    I don’t know, Maha.. My guess is that the whole pack of them will end up blaming Obama for busing in protesters and having his operatives work behind the scenes to cut the feet out from under Walker. I just don’t think that any of the teabagger winter soldiers will be able to see any shortcomings in their “man”. I know in myself and in many others that when our champion makes a move that is inconsistent with what we would expect ( Obama on several issues) of them we somehow rationalize it to believe that they are operating on a higher plane of strategy or they were out maneuvered through no fault of their own. We can’t see as clear as we should see because we look for an external cause for the defeat and not at the person who championed the cause.

  15. Jack Lohman  •  Feb 22, 2011 @8:25 pm

    Walker’s behind-the-scenes work…

    Budget bill has some not-so-pretty poison pills

    By Jack E. Lohman

    Like, how about giving the governor the authority to sell off state assets (power plants), without bids, at any price they choose, even for pennies on the dollar, to private interests?

    As in Senate Bill 11:

    16.896 Sale or contractual operation of state−owned heating, cooling, and power plants. (1) Notwithstanding ss. 13.48 (14) (am) and 16.705 (1), the department may sell any state−owned heating, cooling, and power plant or may contract with a private entity for the operation of any such plant, with or without solicitation of bids, for any amount that the department determines to be in the best interest of the state. Notwithstanding ss. 196.49 and 196.80, no approval or certification of the public service commission is necessary for a public utility to purchase, or contract for the operation of, such a plant, and any such purchase is considered to be in the public interest and to comply with the criteria for certification of a project under s. 196.49 (3) (b). (see page 24)

    So a no-bid contract to sell off the state power plants to the (4th highest Walker contributor) oil-tycoon Koch Brothers (see also here) will very likely occur, and consumer energy rates and corporate product prices will increase.

    There is no other reasonable scenario. The taxpayers have no say in it, and the unions don’t yet realize that this isn’t an issue about worker rights.

    Remember when Walker also wanted to sell off the Milwaukee airport when he was county executive. Note that private contractors can give campaign contributions and public entities can’t, so there is great political incentive to sell government assets to private investors. And unfortunately, feed them thereafter, even while they overcharge the taxpayers.

    *IF* we had public funding of campaigns, and these things occurred without political bribes changing hands, I’d feel more secure with their decisions.

  16. ronspri  •  Feb 22, 2011 @9:51 pm

    “This is a dangerous issue, and it’s a dangerous game the puppet masters are playing. Unfortunately, too many of the peasants suffer Stockholm Syndrome and would rather defend Marie Antoinette than storm the Bastille.”

    The best sum of the situation I have seen yet. You’ve done a great job on issue this Maha. Please keep it up.

    If we could just get people to learn to think in a way that is not about fears but using our technology and intelligence to achieve the things we all want. If one wasn’t thinking about their fears what might they be thinking about? Ohhhh, can’t have that!
    They’ve got a plan and they don’t need your silly ideas.
    We can’t have alternative/sustainable energy because the technology is just not there. Or so they will tell you. We went to the moon in ten years and are much farther down the road now than then. Isn’t it funny that they are the can do people until it comes to alternative energy, then there are lots of reasons we can’t. Time to expose the puppet masters. It’s easy, follow the money.

  17. Tom B  •  Feb 22, 2011 @10:53 pm

    Get up, Stand up.

  18. jamie  •  Feb 22, 2011 @10:57 pm

    Swami, Not everyone will cut their party leader that much slack. I, for one, consider Obama an extension of Bush most of the time.

  19. Wildbillcuster  •  Feb 23, 2011 @1:24 am

    It has been amusing to read this liberal circle jerk of a website. Ya’ll can sit there moaning, “Koch Brothers, Koch Brothers.”, as you furiously pump away, but you know in your hearts that the people are against you. The public parisites in Wisconson and your false Messiah in Washington are going to fail. Deal with it, losers.

  20. c u n d gulag  •  Feb 23, 2011 @9:10 am

    Ok, I assume you’re a very rich man, otherwise you’re another poor conservative fool and a rube (oh, but I repeat myself – twice!).

    If I took you to a 3-card monty game in NY City, would you root for the guy’s running the rigged game you’re playing for $20 bucks a pop?

    Do you root for Donald Trump and the other casino owners with every bet you place, hoping you’ll win long enough to walk away in the plus column instead in the loss column?

    Because, if you’re not rich, that’t what you’re doing. The game has been rigged by the wealthy for the wealthy.
    The loss of union power has directly caused the loss of middle class income.
    So, if you’re not rich, you’re just another willfully ignorant chicken rooting for Col. Sanders.

    I know you won’t read it, but I recommend the following article from Kevin Drum about what happened to unions and their decline, how Democrats and unions lost one another, and the return of the oligarchy.

    You might want to read it as well. It might enlighten you. Or, at least you and the other boys at the exclusive Country Club can have some laughs at the expense of the Liberals who try for economic and social justice.
    You are a member of an exclusive Country Culb, Wildbillcuster, aren’t you?

  21. c u n d gulag  •  Feb 23, 2011 @9:11 am

    maha, my response to Wildbillcuster disappeared into the ether.

  22. maha  •  Feb 23, 2011 @9:47 am

    maha, my response to Wildbillcuster disappeared into the ether.

    Retrieved. I was about to add, “oh, lookee, folks. A pinata! Whack away!”

  23. joanr16  •  Feb 23, 2011 @9:54 am

    you know in your hearts that the people are against you

    Ah, right, because the ever-increasing outraged crowd of workers and their supporters in WI, and the crowds just beginning to assemble in other targeted states, aren’t “people”… to you.

    And there’s your fatal mistake.

  24. joanr16  •  Feb 23, 2011 @9:54 am

    I don’t think this pinata’s full of candy, maha.

  25. maha  •  Feb 23, 2011 @10:05 am

    I don’t think this pinata’s full of candy, maha.

    That’s a point. Whack with a really long stick.

  26. buckyblue  •  Feb 23, 2011 @10:44 am

    We’ve now got a majority of people in WI who are with us, some polls have a slight majority, others an extreme majority. We also have Republican governors in Indiana and, of all places, Florida, saying that collective bargaining should remain in. We have demonstrations in 50 states this weekend. But we also have a Koch brother puppet who can’t think his way out of a brown bag lunch (WI folks will get that joke). He is stubborn, vindictive and imperious. This move is by far the worst, but not the only, effort Walker has made at consolidating power. But we will win, we must. Vive la resistence.

  27. c u n d gulag  •  Feb 23, 2011 @11:27 am

    Wildbillcuster didn’t come to respond back yet?
    Well, I’m not surprised.
    I’m sure that it’s not because he’s an unoriginal cowardly ‘hit-and-run” troll, who’s entire knowledge on the subject are the four sentences above, which he probably cribbed from another moronic troglodyte at LGF, RedState, or worse.


    I’m sure that it’s because Wildbillcuster is in an Executive Meeting somewhere and can’t be disturbed, his secretary holding all of his calls.
    He’ll respond later, after lunch at the “Four Seasons.”

    Or, maybe he’s stopping off for a cold one as he turns for the back-9 at his exclusive Country Club, or sipping champagne on his private jet flying off to his winter place in the Bahama’s.

    I suspect I’ll hear from this clown about the same time I hear back from Teach.


  28. ronspri  •  Feb 23, 2011 @10:43 pm

    So teachers and garbage people and policeman are now freeloaders and public parasites? How shallow of you. Your bazooka bumpersticker brigade doesn’t impress me and it should embarrass you.

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