We Stand Together or Fall Apart

    A few years before the stock market tanked, I inherited a piece of money. The low six figures bequeathed only sparked the dimmest Champagne dreams. Fortunately, I’ve never had caviar tastes.

    After taking prudent steps by settling with everyone I owed, and yielding oh-so-slightly to one impulse — traveling — I invested the remaining chunk. 

    During the money part, the banker handling the funds transfer asked my plans. Beyond depositing that money in my accounts I had none. Until the sudden jolt in tax brackets, I lacked personal financial foresight.

    The bank guy saw a pigeon. He talked a good line. If I’d been younger and insecure, I likely would’ve swallowed his suggestions whole and entrusted him and his institution with my pile. Instead, the smoothness of his patter raised suspicions. Mine. Me and my cash left shortly thereafter.

    Yet one convincing piece of iron-clad surety stuck. He wished high schools taught basic finance and investing. He bemoaned the ill-preparedness of coming clients. In several succinct steps he sketched a prospective guide which could’ve educated young adults regarding far-sighted money management.  

    Again this was years before Lehman and AIG, among them all, became black holes.

    After George W. Bush’s fraudulent first term and his even more criminal second go-round, I prayed high schools restored civics lessons. But given the legal piracy currently transpiring in Madison, Wisconsin, maybe a mash-up of the two disciplines is due. Along with a generous molten helping of American labor movement history. 

    Watching and hearing those complaining about civil sector employees jamming Wisconsin’s public trough and approving of Republican governor Scott Walker’s nearly kingly highhandedness reminds me of Niemoeller’s cautionary. Basically one pooh-poohs at  his or her own peril today’s maltreated targets because witnesses who stood by remaining uninvolved could suffer the same torment tomorrow. 

    Quite understandably a good part of Wisconsin state employees responses are from self-interest. However, theirs is a clarion which aroused differently focused organizations who’ve heard and are moved to act now rather than later.

    Governor Walker and his GOP legislative running-dog lackeys have framed this engagement as responsible cost cutting benefiting taxpayers vs. overindulged state servants. What? Those protesting at the state house commute from Illinois and Minnesota? Residents, voters, and taxpayers as they are, surely their grasp of the tax burden is as firm or firmer than the governor’s. 

    Couching the conflict in simplest Fox News terms, the men and women who teach, staff state offices, maintain its facilities, are treasury-draining spongers. So far first responders and law officers have been spared lashes off the nasty insult stick. Doubtlessly should the others tumble their turn will follow soon enough. 

    To digress a moment: is it really a good idea to disparage the people who form the next generation’s intellect, operate Wisconsin’s regulatory machinery, and repair the transport nets which bind the state? Really? 

    The particulars roiling Wisconsin are shared by our federal government and most states. A revenue decrease not offset by commensurate spending reductions makes for painful math. The situation compels priorities. Ideally every societal layer will realize concessions towards the greater good until tax receipts recover. 

    In Wisconsin, unsurprisingly, public sector personnel have agreed to do their share. Besides givebacks, they will contribute more to their benefits and pensions. 

    The contention is, and it should be fought to the figurative death, collective bargaining. Governor Walker and his legislative stooges want to arbitrarily erase that provision from the employees’ aspect. Walker intends imposing other obstructions but lopping off collective bargaining is the crippling gesture. 

    Skunk-stripe state Republicans, Walker and his bunch have sadly aped the national party’s “no future for you and me” dictum of devouring our seed corn. 

    Forget that collective bargaining’s elimination would lead to dismantling arduous decades of labor progress. Forget that its disappearance would drastically reduce fair avenues of redress for an entire class. Forget that the recourses for wronged employees would become summary judgments, imposed solutions, and at worst, curt dismissals. All that would become legal. Just because a devious state executive and members of his short-sighted legislature could deny a whole segment of Americans their rights.

    Rights. Not privileges. If it happens to them, who’s next?

    Why not hound pensioners? A Republican twofer. They get to assault pensions and social security! 

    All an entity must do is create an artificial situation like Walker. Until enacting a superfluous tax cut for Wisconsin businesses, the state was in the black. The red numbers the giveaway hatched flamed the phony austerity urgency now shaking Madison.

    If the budgetary mania succeeds in Wisconsin how soon until it spreads to less beneficent states? Here the American labor references should enter. 

    A good many supporting Walker’s cruel intentions have either forgotten or never learned how our great nation’s labor evolved. Better pay, benefits, eight-hour workdays, overtime, child-labor laws, pensions, all these were wrested from management. Left to management, the American workforce would still be toiling long hours for pittances under brutish conditions. The only reward fro such work would be shortened, stunted lives.

    It wouldn’t be living. It would be existing. 

    Apparently the more blissful conservative media cheerleaders are either ignorant or ignoring their own debts to the past. Were it not for agitators who broke their arches on picket lines or got their skulls caved by company goons, it’s unlikely guilds strong enough to protect and advance journalists would’ve developed. Those guilds made journalism as peachy an occupation as it’s become. Otherwise today’s Kool-Aid drinkers might be fomenting outside News Corporation’s HQ screaming against “Unfair and Unbalanced!” 

    Admittedly Madison and that working world seem remote to many Americans. For too much of America I suspect its causes and conditions are alien.

    However, if Walker prevails, if Wisconsin state employees succumb, how long until others who’ve assumed the ancillaries of work are inviolable givens will themselves be taken for granted, and abused? Legally. 

    A Decemberists’ refrain keens aptly: “Come the war/Come the avarice/Come the war/Come hell.” 

    What’s happening in Wisconsin portends for every working American. Their fight is ours.


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