Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The battle for Wisconsin - The Supreme Court removes the brakes from corporate spending, and all-out assault on unions ensues. Coincidence?

The battle for Wisconsin - The Conservative Supreme Court removes the brakes from corporate spending, and all-out assault on unions ensues. Coincidence?

Last Friday—in the wee hours of morning, after two weeks of tumult and protest demonstrations—Republicans in the Wisconsin Assembly passed a bill that is breathtaking in its fealty to the ideology of the far right. The bill, dictated by the new Republican governor, Scott Walker, strips the state’s employees of their half-century-old right to bargain collectively—except over base pay, which can never be increased above inflation without a public referendum. It makes union dues purely voluntary and prohibits their collection via paycheck deduction. It requires the unions to face a certification vote every year—and, to get recertified, a union must win a majority of all employees, not just a majority of those voting.

The bill has not yet passed the Wisconsin Senate, because all fourteen members of its Democratic minority decamped for Illinois, thereby depriving the chamber of the quorum required for legislation of this type. Governor Walker claims that his bill is needed to close a budget gap. That is false: the unions have already agreed to all the cuts and givebacks he has demanded. Anyhow, Walker has called his dedication to deficit hawkery into question by pushing through large tax cuts for business (with more to come) and a law forbidding tax hikes without either a two-thirds legislative majority or a statewide referendum.

Liberals who applaud the Wisconsin senators’ interstate flight have been accused of hypocrisy, given that these same liberals indignantly reject the undemocratic use of the filibuster in the Senate of the United States. The analogy is as clever as it is flawed. The Wisconsinites are not trying to kill the bill (they can’t stay away forever); they merely want to delay a vote in the hope of mobilizing public support for compromise. And, instead of simply declaring an intention—the only effort a modern filibuster requires—they have to do something; to wit, camp out in cheap motels at their own expense, away from their families. They even have to forgo their own salaries: the Republicans have halted direct deposit to their skedaddling colleagues’ bank accounts. If they want to get paid, they have to come back to Madison to pick up a paycheck. And the Democrats have another point: although Walker now claims that he ran on curbing collective bargaining as well as cutting employee benefits, no one has been able to find any record that he ever said anything of the kind.

What’s getting awfully difficult to deny is that what the Wisconsin Republicans are doing—and they have plenty of imitators and admirers—is solely for a partisan purpose, and a potentially lethal one. Of the five biggest non-party organizational contributors to political campaigns in 2008, the top two were unions, both of them pro-Democratic and both composed partly or wholly of public-sector workers. The other three were pro-Republican business groups or PACs. In 2010, after the Supreme Court threw open the cash sluices in the Citizens United case, only one union made it into the top five, and it came in fifth. And from now on, thanks to five Justices, corporate campaign spending will be literally limitless.

Yes, unions will have the same freedom. But unions are already maxed out—and their resources, stretched to the breaking point, are diminishing. If, as Anatole France observed, the law in its majesty forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, the Supreme Court, in its majesty, permits both to spend as much as they can lay their hands on. If a Republican Party that has lately become rigidly, fanatically “conservative” can succeed in reducing public-sector unions to the parlous condition of their private-sector brethren, then organized labor—which, for all its failings, all its shortsightedness, all its “special interest” selfishness, remains the only truly formidable counterweight to the ever-growing political power of that top one-thousandth—will no longer be anything close to a match for organized money. And that will be the news, brought to you by a few very rich, very powerful Americans—and many, many billions of dollars. ?
Union members pay taxes too. being tax payers aren't they entitled to a fair fight. They cannot get that fair fight because right-wing millionaires can buy more free speech. Not exactly the vision our Founders had in mind. The 1st Amendment does not say freedom of speech for everyone and some extra for those with deep pockets and a crazed hatred for working Americans.

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