Saturday, February 19, 2011

The State of Democracy and the State of Wisconsin

As we watched with jubilation the protests in Egypt that deposed their dictator, and subsequent uprisings across the Middle east and Africa, there are others brewing in the United States, that while also inspiring, are a little frightening.

In Wisconsin a large group of citizens are holding protests against their government's decision to try to bust the unions. I don't know if their governor Scott Walker has a brother who like like Rob Ford's in Toronto, after his attack on the working class, told them all to get jobs, but I think this could get ugly.

The gun loving, corporate sponsored Tea Party crowd, has piled into buses, planning an attack on the workers. According to the Christian Science Monitor, Wisconsin protests: why 'week of rage' matters to rest of America

The Wisconsin protests are providing one of the first signs that the Midwest could become the primary testing ground for November’s tea party revolution. Plans by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the legislature to gut collective bargaining – the tool by which public unions secure pay and benefits – for most public employees could spill into other Midwest states ...

No region of the country was more comprehensively recast by the 2010 elections than the seven states of the upper Midwest that arc from Minnesota to Ohio. Where before Democrats had held the upper hand, Republicans now have a virtual stranglehold on politics, controlling both houses of the legislature and the governors’ chairs in Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin.

The full import of that switch has become apparent on the streets of Madison, Wis., this week. At least 25,000 union Wisconsin protesters amassed Friday morning in and around the Capitol to protest the governor’s plans. Earlier in the week, there had been as many as 40,000. Schools have been canceled, and one rally lasted a marathon 17 hours. With the state's tea party activists set to counterprotest Saturday, the drama has set the scene for the streets of Madison to become a surrogate for the clash of broader forces that currently define American politics.

The "clash of broader forces" represents the clash not between rich and poor, or even Republicans and Democrats, but between The Corporate Welfare State and The Social Welfare State. I only hope that when those Tea Party revellers leave their buses, that they are searched for weapons.

Robert Reich has an excellent column in the Huffington Post, suggesting, and rightfully so, that this is all part of a larger Republican strategy to ensure corporate rule. Not unlike Stephen Harper's who has filled government departments with lobbyists, and corporate coffers with our tax dollars.

The Republican strategy is to split the vast middle and working class -- pitting unionized workers against non-unionized, public-sector workers against non-public, older workers within sight of Medicare and Social Security against younger workers who don't believe these programs will be there for them, and the poor against the working middle class.

By splitting working America along these lines, Republicans want Americans to believe that we can no longer afford to do what we need to do as a nation. They hope to deflect attention from the increasing share of total income and wealth going to the richest 1 percent while the jobs and wages of everyone else languish.

Divide and conquer. The classic neoconservative strategy. They blame the poor and the elderly, hoping we won't start adding up how much money has gone to their corporate buddies, who have fed so heavily from the public trough, that they can barely roll their way to the bank. Thank heavens for online banking or they might have to actually break a sweat while robbing from the working class.

Republicans would rather no one notice their campaign to shrink the pie even further with additional tax cuts for the rich -- making the Bush tax cuts permanent, further reducing the estate tax, and allowing the wealthy to shift ever more of their income into capital gains taxed at 15 percent.

Stephen Harper and Jim Flaherty, have made it easier on the poor dears, by making them all pay a mere 15%, and with deductions and loop holes, wealthy corporations probably won't pay any tax at all. Heck maybe they'll be eligible for refunds.

Just like the Republicans, who Reich says "pit average working Americans against one another, distract attention from the almost unprecedented concentration of wealth and power at the top, and conceal Republican plans to further enlarge and entrench that wealth and power."

The protests in the Midwest will not only be a test of the power of the Kazillionaire Koch brothers' Tea Party movement, but a test of the power of America's working class, many of whom are now barely working.

And the world will be watching.

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