Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Seamy Side of Wisconsin

The headline news is filled with an obdurate Governor Walker claiming that he is fighting only to get control of the budget while hordes of demonstrators are screaming that they have given in to the demands for salary and retirement concessions and all they want is to keep their dignity and their right to collectively bargain.

But there is a seamy side to Walker that isn't getting the news headlines. Here's a bit from a post by the New Deal 2.0 blog:
The fight in Wisconsin is over Governor Walker’s 144-page Budget Repair Bill. The parts everyone is focusing on have to do with the right to collectively bargain being stripped from public sector unions (except for the unions that supported Walker running for Governor). Focusing on this misses a large part of what the bill would do. Check out this language, from the same bill (my bold):
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).
The bill would allow for the selling of state-owned heating/cooling/power plants without bids and without concern for the legally-defined public interest. This excellent catch is from Ed at ginandtacos.com (who, speaking of Madison, took me to the Essen Haus on my 21st birthday, where the night began to go sideways). Ed correctly notes:
If this isn’t the best summary of the goals of modern conservatism, I don’t know what is. It’s like a highlight reel of all of the tomahawk dunks of neo-Gilded Age corporatism: privatization, no-bid contracts, deregulation, and naked cronyism. Extra bonus points for the explicit effort to legally redefine the term “public interest” as “whatever the energy industry lobbyists we appoint to these unelected bureaucratic positions say it is.”

In case it isn’t clear where the naked cronyism comes in, remember which large, politically active private interest loves buying up power plants and already has considerable interests in Wisconsin. Then consider their demonstrated eagerness to help Mr. Walker get elected and bus in carpetbaggers to have a sad little pro-Mubarak style “rally” in his honor. There are dots to be connected here, but doing so might not be in the public interest.
It’s important to think of this battle as a larger one over the role of the state. The attempt to break labor is part of the same continuous motion as saying that the crony, corporatist selling of state utilities to the Koch brothers and other energy interests is the new “public interest.”
It is pretty clear to me that Walker hoodwinked the public and won an election without telling people his real agenda. He thinks politics is "getting a majority" and then jamming down the throat of his opponents his own agenda. But in a real democracy there is a thing known as "minority rights" and there is a limit to the ability to run roughshod over the people. It isn't formal. But it comes back to bite you in the next election. Sure the fanatics will applaud Walker for his "heroic" stance in destroying the unions in Wisconsin and in dismantling the public infrastructure, but the great majority will be utterly horrified by what he has done and will spend the next generation slowly rebuilding from the scorched earth policy of the rabid Republicans under Walker's control. Tragic.

No comments: