Madison, Wisconsin--Which Side Are You On?
A unionized public employee, an ill-informed citizen, and a CEO are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across and takes 11 cookies, looks at the ill-informed citizen and says, "Watch out for that union guy. He wants a piece of your cookie."
The above bad joke coupled with the three week stand-off in neighboring Wisconsin and the nine pictures of the current extreme wealth/income gap led my friend Tom D. to repeat Pete Seeger's timeless question:
As you can see, we've gotten lots of opportunities to put our new yellow "W. A. R." banner up in snow banks in both Wisconsin and Minnesota these last few weeks!
Here's fellow Minnesotan Jack Blatherwick's fuller explanation:
"Entitlements" for public workers like police, highway construction, fire, etc. and public school teachers are essential for them to exist and have an average (not elegant) life. They are not striking for more -- they've agreed to take a 7% cut in pay to contribute to the state's budget crisis.
The only labor issue right now is collective bargaining, an essential check-balance from on the runaway gap between the wealthy plutocrats and the rest of us. They gave up everything else to do their share to balance the budget. The next step you mention is eat less, feed their children less, and get their house foreclosed upon.
Wealth allows corporations and individuals to "buy" elections and politicians, so they can tip the balance more to their liking for cheap labor, less restrictions on their waste, more monopoly, and war when they want it. This is why they are called plutocrats, because their wealth controls the pseudo-democracy.
Then there's this little clause hidden deep inside the bill which would allow the governor to unilaterally decide if he wants to sell the public utilities to the Koch brothers or some other buyer. Think that might be a nice return on the thousands the Koch's put into the governor's campaign??? Imagine selling the nuclear power plants in our state to someone like the Kochs.
Unions which you dislike have curbed the domination by the Robber barons, but perhaps more personally have created an environment where social security will allow both of us to retire -- not wealthy -- just not out in the street. And your wife's salary and benefits do more of the same. This is exactly how it should be -- not greedy -- but above the poverty line for people like her who worked hard for decades. Without the unions of the past, this would never have occurred.
Every economist in the country understands a basic fact about the working class -- public or private. Putting money in their hands builds the economy, because they spend it. So public wages and "entitlements" are the surest way to grow the economy.
Since neither of us knows the numbers on the budget, I don't disagree that entitlements are a big part. They are also the cost of living in a moral society that takes care of the weak -- the difference between a civil society and the jungle. Defense is even greater when all things are taken into consideration, like the VA and other veteran benefits in the future. The word "defense" of course is a total sham. It is "offense." But that trillion (that is a thousand billion) dollar tax-payer expense also goes to the wealthy, because practically every cent goes to the military-industrial corporations. The cost of war is totally borne by the peasants like us. It is a source of wealth and no sacrifice for the plutocrats. Peasants are the warriors and peasant taxes pay for the war -- money that goes directly into the hands of the wealthy. That is why we are at war now, and will always be. This is the way it has always been from the feudal day forward, with a couple exceptions when the aristocracy actually had to fight. During the Civil War they actually had a law that allowed rich folks to pay $300 to someone else to fight. Now it is not even a question: they don't fight. They just get rich on war.
I'm not against wealth for the owners, investors, and creative minds that build corporations and create jobs. But the difference between them and the rest has multiplied exponentially: Consider this Randy, the wealthiest 1% of our population now makes more than the poorest 50%. Think about that for a couple seconds.
So, I leave you with that cruel but very appropriate joke about the cookies. If the plutocrats had their way we would all be scratching for crumbs and jobs. That way salaries are kept low ... a very critical part of the neo-con economic philosophy enunciated by every one of their economists.