Monday, February 21, 2011

Krugman's Attack of the Oligarchs

The following is a guest post written by Kate Madison of Depoe Bay, Oregon, in response to today's Paul Krugman column, "Wisconsin Power Play."

Scott Walker,the Tea Party governor of Wisconsin, is doing, as Naomi Klein, explains: "a classic example of "The Shock Doctrine" her excellent book about how politicians create a crisis (or take advantage of one--i.e, 9/11), then use that crisis as an excuse to push through horribly unpopular economic policies."
Let's face it, people! Democracy in America is in hospice, and not doing well at all. Ronald Reagan, our first oncologist, treated our economy with Milton Friedman's "free market" chemotherapy, and the rich got richer, but the cancer worsened. Our prognosis has gone downhill from there. Each succeeding President has promised a new, less toxic, form of chemo to address our festering economic cancer, but each has cooked up another "free market" concoction-- hidden in giveaways to corporations--with George W. Bush's almost lethal cocktail being the worst. The rich just kept getting richer, and the economy sicker. Then, in 2008, we got Barack Obama, the man of HOPE. He promised an entirely new form of chemotherapy to address the dying economy and bring our Democracy back to the land of the living. Sad to say, President Obama came down with a bad case of "corporate flu," a virus passed to him through Wall Street dollars. This blinded him to the reality of what needed to be done. So he too decided to use "free market" chemo and called in Larry Summers and Timothy Geither to administer the"new and better potion," assuring us this was different. Some of us pointed out that there were Nobel laureate economists, Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz, who had a different idea of a cure for our cancerous, fast failing economy, and an entirely different idea about chemotherapy. Obama said"no thanks," but graciously offered to do lunch sometime.  Then he extended the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2%.
The rest is history. EXCEPT--the people of Wisconsin understand what the chemo (now proposed by a Tea Party governor, which involves neutralizing their unions) would actually do to them. Wisconsin may be economically ill, but its citizens are not stupid, and they have their eyes wide open.  They know at the beginning of 2010 Wisconsin had a budget surplus which the governor gave  away in tax breaks (to corporations that had supported him), creating a deficit.   So....the people are writing their own story to resist the false panic that the psychopathic governor is telling them is "the only alternative."  They have rejected Walker's chemo, and are strengthening their collective immune system through mass demonstrations,  speaking up and refusing to turn their rights over to a quack. Free market chemotherapy is in reality a toxic, tired tea. And the people in Wisconsin are not going to drink it! Give it to the Tea Party zombies that Americans for Prosperity have bussed into Madison from out-of-state to try to stir up the protesters and confuse the rest of us.   Maybe it will put them back to sleep.


Patty Reynolds said...

Thank you thank you thank you Karen for this blog. I love reading your responses in the NYT, and those of Marie Burns too. Both of you have the ability to express clearly what's going through my head, when I find myself lacking for articulation. Know that there are many more like me out there, who don't take the time to send a note such as this. I now see that the events in this country require those of us reluctant to get involved do just that.

As a Minnesotan a short drive from the Wisconsin border, I firmly stand with the workers in their struggle. If they go down, we all go down, union members or not.

Anne Lavoie said...

I hope everyone is reading Gene Sharp's books or referring to his website for ideas for nonviolent action (Albert Einstein Institution). We all need to learn about effective strategies to deal with this corporate takeover of America.

It may be really cynical of me, but I think Walker exempted the police union to ensure their cooperation when he orders them to work against protesters if/when things escalate. Thankfully, the police and fire are giving their personal support now, and hopefully they will do what's right professionally when/if the time comes.


Anonymous said...

"All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that "under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government."

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Anne Lavoie said...

Dear Mr. Roosevelt:

I don't know what it was like in your day, but right now the most powerful collective bargaining unit in our country is Congress. So what that they only bargain with themselves. They all have agreed to give themselves automatic pay raises and generous salaries and benefits, so we know they can be a very effective bargaining unit. For them anyway. Lifetime pension and quality health insurance, etc. just for serving one term?

So of course it would be 'unthinkable and intolerable' for Congress to shut down the government to get their way on budget cuts or anything else, right? Do they know that?

The sad part, Frank, is that they are Exempt employees. Exempt from almost everything they apply to everyone else. Weren't you talking about them when you said 'Looking to the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to uphold it'? Sure sounds like Congress to me, especially right now.

Do me a favor, Frank, and send your quotes to Washington. They could use a reminder of what harm they are doing to the nation with their power plays that they deny everyone else.

And thanks, Mr. Roosevelt, for your timely advice to Congress. You did some good things in your day. Nice to hear from you again.


Karen Garcia said...

Eleanor Roosevelt comments from the grave:

"I have always felt that it was important that everyone who was a worker join a labor union." (IBEW Strike, 1941).

"You in the unions do not yet represent all of labor. But I hope someday you will,because I believe that it is through strength, through the fact that people who know what people need are working to make this country a better place for all people, that we will help the world to accept our leadership and understand that under our form of government and through our way of life, we have something to offer them. (AWCA Convention, 1956).

"One should never belittle the value of words, however, for they have a way of getting translated into facts, and therein lies the hope for our universal declaration.("My Day" newspaper column,1948).

Anonymous said...

It might be worthwhile to put that FDR quote in historical context. At that time, there was a tangible threat of communism. And there was a rock-solid left in this country that was far to the left of Ms. Burns and Ms. Garcia, our devoted and well-loved tell-it-like-it-is "schoolmarms." (Schoolmarm being a high compliment in my book.)
Today the threat is from the plutocratic right. They are building a dangerously inegalitarian, anti-democratic siuation. They are, in effect, inviting a Tahrir Square showdown.

jhand said...

The quotation from FDR is from a man who believed in government and governance; the modern right wingers would like to destroy government at least at the federal and state level. Then corporate bullies can do whatever they want in the public domain: no taxes, no regulation, no protection of workers, no education for the un-rich, no help for the young, the old, and the sick. What Wisconsin's public employees are trying to do is preserve and protect the idea that government can and should work for the common good. Bullies like Walker, Christie in NJ, Kasich in Ohio, etc., call to mind the nurse testifying in the film The Verdict. After describing how the doctors forced her to falsify records, she cries out, "Who are these people!!? I wanted to be a nurse.!!"
BTW, Karen, your new website and your NYT comments are wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Rep serve two year terms so the "one term pension" needs clarification. Details follow....

Members of Congress receive retirement and health benefits under the same plans available to other federal employees. They become vested after five years of full participation.

Members of Congress are not eligible for a pension until they reach the age of 50, but only if they've completed 20 years of service. Members are eligible at any age after completing 25 years of service or after they reach the age of 62. Please also note that Members of Congress have to serve at least 5 years to even receive a pension.

The amount of a congressperson's pension depends on the years of service and the average of the highest 3 years of his or her salary. By law, the starting amount of a Member's retirement annuity may not exceed 80% of his or her final salary.

Haley Simon

Anonymous said...

Hey, Karen, I can't post a link from my handheld, but just to let your readers know there's a good frontpage NYTimes article on Koch Bros. funding the counterprotestors in Madison. One of the Koch-sponsored groups saw their political budget increase from 7 mil to 40 mil. I'd be pissed at the right if I weren't so impressed with their shamelessness - an essential quality in dispatching wimpy opponents. (At least "the furies" Kate, Marie, and Karen are not in the least wimpy!)
We salute you,

Draft Spitzer said...

Note on add'l Times article: "Union Bonds in Wisconsin Begin To Fray" (On today's NYTimes front page.) They list Harley-Davidson as one of the companies asking for concessions from its workers. Bernie Sanders exposed Harley as one of the companies that got an emergency bailout during TARP. This was exposed in Dec 2010, covered in WSJ, but not in NYTimes. Because these bailouts to Harley and GE are little-known, I propose they be called the "(Super) Double Secret Probation Bailouts Given Away By The Fed". In remembrance of Dean Vernon Wormer.

Anonymous said...

Great response to Brooks today 2-22-2011!

Chris Doyle SF, Ca.

J. Jensen said...

How do I invite Kate Madison to lunch? I'm in Lincoln City and serious. I was young and fresh out of the military when I got sold on bad economics. A big thanks to OSU Cascades and Central Oregon Community College. I even got sold on the HOPE in 2008. I am all the wiser now but how the heck do we participate in society and not act to our own collective detriment? People my age who are supposed to be taking the baton are frustrated, unemployed, lack skills and education, and are frightened and lashing out at each other of all people. You think it's bad now? I'm telling you all HERE WE COME!!!!