When Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker told unionized public employees they must give up some of their benefits, the unions said “Okay”.
Walker said the public employees must pay for part of their health care costs. The public employees said “Right”.
Walker told the public employee unions they must give up their collective bargaining rights. The unions said “WTF?”.
Just like every other state in the Union, Wisconsin has a budget problem and needs to cut costs. The question is how does taking away the hard-won right to collective bargaining balance the Wisconsin budget? How is Walker factoring-in the cost of things that haven’t even been negotiated yet?
The answer is he can’t. The answer is this demand isn’t about balancing the budget. This is about union busting. It’s about ultra-conservative ideology vs. the middle class. It’s about people’s right to make a living vs. (ultimately) corporate greed. Because once the State of Wisconsin busts the public workers’ unions the private sector workers will be next.
This is the latest example of American politicians taking advantage of a crisis to force regressive agendas. It is a standard political tactic to kick your opponents when they are down, and these days the opponents are corporations vs. the middle class. Because in the current economic reality the middle class is bad for business. Middle class workers want a reasonable wage. They want medical and retirement benefits. They want time off to care for their families. They want to maintain a standard of living that gives them a reasonable level of economic and personal security. And all of those things cost money, and all of that money comes out of (potential) profits.
The corporate response to this has been to take jobs elsewhere, to countries where there was no middle class, where labor could be exploited in the most efficient and profitable manner. But they also needed an educated labor force, and over time those educated foreign workers began to feel a sense of self-worth and entitlement. They blossomed into the inevitable product of economic success: a middle class.
Now the corporate interests have seen the error in exporting jobs overseas: they exported their labor problems along with them. So they have come back to the U.S. in the form of non-national corporate entities: global corporations that don’t identify themselves with any nation or region. They owe allegiance to no one. And they see the U.S. as a potentially profitable region if they can just do a bit of political and social engineering to their advantage.
The middle class is too well-off for this spartan economic vision; a vision of a future where labor is kept at the edge of crisis at all times, completely dependent on a paradigm of day-to-day “subsistence employment”. Every job is temporary and everyone is disposable. Yet the corporations will still be able to sell what they make on the Wal-Mart model: sell cheap crap by giving the consumer no other choice, because everything on the shelves is cheap crap. Everyone will live in a modular residence furnished with cardboard and plastic junk that must be replaced regularly. The employers will have no responsibility to the employed. Small business will cease to exist because it isn’t efficient – small business owners tend to be part of the middle class.
That’s what the protests in Wisconsin, and now in many other states, are ultimately about. Do we have government of the people, by the people, and for the people? Or a corporate state where laws and business decisions are indistinguishable?