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Thursday, 24 February 2011

Something's Happening Here

category_bug_politics.gif “Here” being the Middle East. In Tunisia and Egypt, tyrants have been toppled. Their counterparts in Yemen, Bahrain and Libya are in deep trouble and there is growing unrest in Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Iran and Sudan. There may be more soon.

“Here” is also the U.S. In Wisconsin, protesters have demonstrated for days against the governor who is trying to fob off union busting as budget balancing – a financial shortfall of the governor's own making.

Now, Ohioans are demonstrating too against the same kind of attempt by a governor to kill state workers' right to collective bargaining and yesterday, Democratic legislators in Indiana, like those in Wisconsin, fled the capitol to stall an anti-union vote.

In a gesture of global solidarity, donors from dozens of countries, including Egypt, have ordered up pizza to be delivered to the demonstrators in Madison, where temperatures hover around freezing.

And all this week there are rallies around the U.S. in support of the Wisconsin and, by extension, Ohio and Indiana demonstrators.

Something is definitely happening here, Mr. Jones.

Although types of government in the two regions of protest differ dramatically, there is at least one commonality. In the Middle East countries of unrest, unemployment ranges from about 10 to 35 percent. In the U.S., the national unemployment rate is officially 9.8 percent but as the reality-based community knows, it is closer to 16 or 17 percent.

The people are being squeezed everywhere and the dissatisfaction is reaching a boiling point.

Although citizens of the U.S. are not detained, imprisoned, tortured, executed or shot in the streets as in some Arab countries, we are nonetheless oppressed. Our government, in long-time cahoots with the corporate elite, started decades before this current financial crisis to steal for themselves all but the shirts on our backs.

The truest thing I've read in the past several days – something few have ever stated as baldly - is in a story titled, Plutocracy Now: What Wisconsin is Really About, from Kevin Drum at Mother Jones:

”American politicians don't care much about voters with moderate incomes. Princeton political scientist Larry Bartels studied the voting behavior of US senators in the early '90s and discovered that they respond far more to the desires of high-income groups than to anyone else.

“By itself, that's not a surprise. He also found that Republicans don't respond at all to the desires of voters with modest incomes. Maybe that's not a surprise, either. But this should be: Bartels found that Democratic senators don't respond to the desires of these voters, either. At all.” [original emphasis]

We have always deep down known that, even as we write, phone and email our representatives. We the people, even in concert, cannot possibly match the billions of dollars corporations lavish on legislators (if that's what democracy has become) who never fail to fulfill the demands of the monied interests.

The ultimate insult is that they took a gigantic portion of that money from you and me through corporate-friendly regulation, taxation and legislation.

To understand the enormity of it, Drum helpfully supplies some graphs from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. This one is the change in average household income by economic strata before taxes from 1979 to 2007 in dollars:

Avghouseholdincome

Notice those flat lines at the bottom of the graph. This second graph shows the change in share of income after taxes by percentage from 1979 to 2007:

Shareofincome

These lines are worse than flat; they are in the negative. If you are not enraged, you should be.

This does not happen by accident or through some natural phenomena of a free market system (there is no free market). It is deliberate and one of the reasons it has been possible is that in the past 30-odd years, the corporate-dominated government neutralized and destroyed the last populist institution – unions – with the size and resources to at least hold the line against the economic rape of the people.

Here's one more graph from Kevin Drum's story that tells the sad, criminal story (click here to see a larger version):

YourLosssmall

Here is what I think (and hope) is happening in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, and in the solidarity rallies throughout the country: I think the attack on state employees' right to collective bargaining is a last straw and the people are not going to take it anymore.

These public employees and protesters are teachers, firemen, EMT workers, sanitation workers, snow plow drivers, etc. They are the people's neighbors, friends and fellow PTA members and I think we have finally understood that if our neighbors go down, so do the rest of us.

In Wisconsin, they agreed to increased costs for benefits in the bill they oppose, but they know that stripping their collective bargaining rights has nothing to do with the budget and they know that if they agree to that, they have lost their last bit of leverage against a rapacious system hell bent on taking every last cent from them.

If I am right about what they and their supporters are doing, the protests will spread throughout the land, particularly when the weather warms up in a few weeks. Massive street protests are the only power we the people have left against the corporate/government plutocracy.

God, I hope I'm right, that these people are the vanguard of what is coming. If so, it will be a long and bitter struggle against Mr. Jones, but I don't see an alternative. We must fight back even if, in the end, we lose.

One of my few heroes, Chris Hedges, is much more eloquent and passionate than I am capable of being about our national predicament and I believe it is as important as this excerpt states to stand up in every way possible, large and small, against the corporate/government steamroller:

“We may feel, in the face of the ruthless corporate destruction of our nation, our culture, and our ecosystem, powerless and weak. But we are not. We have a power that terrifies the corporate state.

“Any act of rebellion, no matter how few people show up or how heavily it is censored by a media that caters to the needs and profits of corporations, chips away at corporate power. Any act of rebellion keeps alive the embers for larger movements that follow us. It passes on another narrative.

“It will, as the rot of the state consumes itself, attract wider and wider numbers. Perhaps this will not happen in our lifetimes. But if we persist we will keep this possibility alive. If we do not, it will die.”

The protesters in the Midwest and the 14 state legislators who fled the state to avoid a vote on the bill against an overwhelming Republican majority that is with the governor need and deserve our support.

Send a pizza – here's a telephone number in Madison: (608) 257-9248. Sign this petition. If there is a support rally in your city, join it. And be ready to do more in the coming weeks and months. Help keep this nascent movement alive.


At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Outhouses I Have Known


Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:31 AM | Permalink | Email this post

Comments

Shades of Saul! Great post!

This is an important post--required reading level. I'm linking it so all my family will see it. Thanks for taking the time to put this together.

Terrific post--am sending it out to friends. Hopefully, we're seeing the beginning of our own revolution for people's democracy!

Absolutely important and beautifully written - and Miss Do Not Get Involved just signed the petitition with My Real Name.

Shades of Saul Alinsky! From here in Tel Aviv, I signed the petition using my Georgia home address, and am now forwarding your post to my neighbors. Thank you, Ronni, for your rage, intellect, research, links, and calls to action with appropriate organizations.

Great post! I've been following the Wisconsin protests, but I'm disgusted with the major news media - very little coverage, often hidden far down even on their website. CNN especially has really disappointed me!

I do realize the uprisings in the middle east are big news, but so are the protests in Wisconsin and around our country. I hope those protestors keep it up, and do not give up their collective bargaining rights - it's the last shred of protection they/we have.

And to think I remember when unions came to Alabama; one of my aunts was a union organizer and a good one at that! Unions were a hard-won right; now it's having to be fought all over again - or will be if this battle is lost.

It reminds me of a song! Lot's of things do to the chagrin of my family.

The Banks Are Made of Marble


A Song by Les Rice©Stormking Music 1950
I've traveled round this country
From shore to shining shore
It really made me wonder
The things I heard and saw.
I saw the weary farmer
Plowing sod and loam
l heard the auction hammer
A knocking down his home
But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the farmer sweated for
l saw the seaman standing
Idly by the shore
l heard the bosses saying
Got no work for you no more
But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the seaman sweated for
I saw the weary miner
Scrubbing coal dust from his back
I heard his children cryin
Got no coal to heat the shack
But the banks are made of marble
With a guard at every door
And the vaults are stuffed with silver
That the miner sweated for
I've seen my brothers working
Throughout this mighty land
l prayed we'd get together
And together make a stand
Final Chorus
Then we'd own those banks of marble
With a guard at every door
And we'd share those vaults of silver
That we have sweated for

Yes indeed, we seem to be waking up to the marching season. Every little bit helps ... and besides, there is nothing else to do but to try to retain our human dignity.

I signed the petition in the hope that every little bit really will help.

But, call me a skeptic because I really don't believe people in the U.S. or other countries revolt unless things get very, very bad. For example, the people and their children are starving.

Still it's hard to be sure how internet-based social media will change things.

Maybe that time is not so far off.

17 % plus union busting should get the masses marching. Signing too.

I hope the Republicans overplayed their hand this time. The fake phone call to Governor Walker in which he blatantly admits that this is a Republican joint effort to kill the Unions should wake the people up from their indifference. Maybe the rallies will grow and the politicians will take notice.

One can only hope.

Hey, Pilgrim ... thanks for the lyrics! I always get emtional when I hear/sing these words ... and all the Civil Rights and Wobblies' fierce rallying songs. Do you know "Bandiera Rosa"? I've been singing and humming that one for several days!!

These marchers have the total support of this old Civil Rights fighter from Atlanta who marched and carried a big sign, too.

I signed the petition -- sent off parts of the info from your post to friends and family. I felt it was an excellent post.

The corporates and politicians bend the meaning of democracy by publicly pushing it to mean equality and freedom while they are shredding our democracy in their back rooms.

Hopefully the Wisc. demonstration will wake up some of the people from the mid-range to the bottom of the income range and start public ranting about our declining democracy. Let every online writer shout-out and every union and non-union member march against this political idea of non- collective bargaining.

Let the movement toward ousting the political bums begin and also provide transparency of corporate power.

Thank you for writing this post and graphically showing the absurdity of this whole politico/corportico shame.

Brilliant post! I signed the petition and I am passing the word.

Okay, I was behind the public employees too, until I read David Brooks' piece, which makes some good points about the differences between bargaining with public and private concerns. Check it out.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/22/opinion/22brooks.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

A brilliant post! I signed the petition, too. I'm sitting here with a few bubbles of exhilaration beginning to surface...first time I've felt this in a long time.

For about the zillionth time, David Brooks didn't do his homework. See this,

This is pretty interesting. I was looking for something but found your blog instead through Bing. I love blogging. Anyways, just wanted to drop by and say hi. I have subscribed to your site and I am looking forward to the updates. Thanks

LOVE the post title!

Stephen Stills may not have foreseen the power of his lyrics, but they certainly have applied many times through the years, and especially now.

As a congenital Democrat and graddaughter of of a United Mine Workers official in prewar Rock Springs, Wyo., and one-time member of the CWA/AFL-CIO, I would like to point out that unions, whether one was a member or not:

-Created the 40-hour week
-Created workplace safety
-Created paid days off
-Created the notion of "week-ends"
-Created the minimum wage
-Created health benefits
-Created a bulwark against abusive management
-And more.

All workers have benefited from unions, which is why my vision goes black and I hear whooshing sounds when I hear or read pig-headed support for union-busting from working people! Who apparently believe their corporate masters give a damn about them!

No pasaran!

How much did unions themselves have to do with their demise?
I am as concerned as anybody about the disappearing middle class, but I'm not sure it is all about unions. Sure, greed has a lot to do with it, but it's probably a lot more complex than this post implies but it's food for thought and good discussion. Good thing that we are all a bunch of old people because, otherwise, many of us might actually take to the streets and..........

John...
In no way did I mean or even say that our national predicament is all about unions or that it is not more complex that this one post.

What I said, and I believe I was pretty clear, is that something is changing with the American people versus the corporatocracy and it happens to be starting with public sector unions.

Certainly it is not all about unions but it is the first widespread focal point bringing people together to voice their dissatisfactions.

If all proceeds well, people involved in the many other abuses against the poor and middle class will begin to protest and coalitions will form.

Please don't misinterpret or mis-state what I say.

George Carlin pretty well summed it up in this skit which was one of his last performances called
Who Really Controls America?"

I am a member of a union in the private sector and I disagree with a lot of what is reported to be in the proposed bill. I am also appalled at the tactics of the Democrats leaving the state to avoid their duty to vote.
Obama said that “Elections have consequence” and “We won.” when the Democrats were passing their agenda at the national level. The same should apply at the state level; in this case, the Republicans. Imagine, if you will, if every time the minority party doesn't like a bill, it up and leaves the state.
In private industry, if a person did this, they would be fired. If a person did this in the military, they would be considered a deserter and tried in a military court. The end does not justify the means and personally I would never re-elect a representative who would flee the state capitol rather than perform their job and stay and vote. I wouldn't care if that representative was a Democrat, Republican, Independent, or any other party.
The Democrats need to go home and do their jobs. If the voters don’t like the new laws that are passed, they can elect new people in the next election cycle and change the laws. That is how Democracy works.

"We were always looking at photos but we were never in the photos, now the photo is us" Walid, one of the organizers of the Cairo demonstrations

What's happening in the senate today? It seems our democratic senators are looking for more ways to make long-term cuts in social spending, not just the short term cuts the house whipped up in a hurry. Read all about it at huffpo.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/02/24/senate-democrats-meet-to-find-more-cuts_n_827817.html

In solidarity for every person demonstrating throughout the world I will be out in the cold mid-west elements on Saturday protesting my collective bargaining back side off. YOU BET, I am a proud union (MFT) teacher. For 25 + years our union has always had level headed and practical thinking presidents who protected our seniority rights and medical benefits, along with other due process language written into our contract from the crazy &^% school board we have. Over the course of my 25 years our school board has paid out millions to pay off the contracts of at least four corrupt or unethically behaving superintendents, that they hired! If I behaved in those ways I'd have been given my walking papers and told not to let the door hit my you know what on the way out.

I have always felt the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt were just the beginning. I can't tell you how glad I am to see the people of those countries take back their power. Given who their "leaders" were they are brave and an example for all of us. I hope like the dickens that protesting spreads here, in the US, like wild fire. Let Wisconsin lead the way, cause I'm right with them. I also hope that the insidious lying manipulative Republicans and the corporate scum they sleep with (figuratively speaking (could be literal too) are trembling in their thousand dollar suits and afraid. Because when the masses finally figure out they have power and are fed up with Republican b.s. , well let it be the 60's all over again, cause I'm ready for a good old fashion revolution. :)

OK I know I'm a bit over the top here but you get my point.

Sorry, Karen, in this case the end DOES justify the means. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as long as we're dealing in cliches.
Do you think the GOP will ever play fair? Did you pay attention to the part of Ronni's post re what this is really about: corporatist consolidation of the weakening election process by destroying a prime Democratic donor class?
Don't you see the deck is stacked?
Don't you see that when people like you insist on some version of "fair play" when dealing with Koch ilk that you just look like meat to them? Or ants?
Don't you understand that they want it ALL and won't rest until they have it?
Would you suggest the protestors in the Middle East observe the niceties and just go home until the oppressors decide what to do with them?
Jeez, get a grip.

I ordered a pizza for the Madison protesters from "Ians on State" two days ago. They are $20 each, plus a tip for the delivery person if you wish.

Because the new governor of Michigan has proposed eliminating most tax exemptions now given retired folks, I may not be able to send anybody a pizza soon!

But I still can walk and carry a sign, so look out, Michigan gov.

Here is what I don't understand about the argument against collective bargaining. It is "bargaining". The state negotiated these contracts which the governor now says are breaking the budget.I think that says more about the state negotiators than it does about the union. Are they so afraid of negotiating with the union workers that they have to take away their basic right to sit at the negotiation table? If the retirement accounts were not properly funded, who's at fault? The workers have been depositing their portion into the fund. The state agreed to the amount which was to be in the fund and to be paid out. Why didn't they deposit their share? I do understand the back issue of taking away the democratic party's funding, but they truly are saying they themselves are too stupid to negotiate a deal with the union that would maintain a state budget.

Sixty and Challenged:

With all due respect, David Brooks has a habit of presenting only the facts that support his argument and omitting those that happen to be inconvenient. Personally, I don't respect or pay heed to anyone capable of such intellectual dishonesty.

Case in point: Brooks extolled the virtues of Paul Ryan's voucher-based plan for Medicare, and implied that vouchers would always keep their value because they were indexed above the general inflation rate. True enough. However, in the same column Brooks neglected to mention that the value of the initial vouchers issued in 2021 would be based on 2010 dollars. He also failed to mention that while the vouchers would be indexed above the general inflation rate, they would also be indexed below the medical inflation rate. One estimate has the vouchers eventually losing 76% of their value, which is diminished in the first by virtue of being based on the present value of an 11-year old dollar. Except for the 76% estimate, my source for all of this is the Ryan plan itself. It's inconceivable that Brooks didn't know this when he wrote the column.

Frankly, nothing Brooks writes can be trusted.

Nice to see that Chris Hedges has found his footing. American Fascists and War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning were excellent, but what I read of the last one was extremely disappointing. After a lifetime of listening to the left knock liberals while extolling its own purity, the book was more than I could take.

Yesterday on The News Hour, a reporter opined about the Rhode Isand budget being in dire straights because of unfunded public employees pensions. henn, she interviewed persons involved in programs for foster children and troubled children. The interviewer said a choice must be made in helping the most vulnerabe(children) as opposed to the geedy public pensioners. Looks like this might be leading to a generational war. My husband payed 7% of hs salary every year into his federal penion. We also paid 25 % of our insurance. As my adult children began working in the corporate world, they all had far better and cheaper health care premiums. People castigating unions do not have the facts.

The terrific English-language Israeli blog +972 (Israel's country telephone code) published this story last Wednesday: From Madison to Cairo, the people are rising. A good read!

I HOPE you're right. But I won't believe it til I see it. Sorry to be so cynical but I believe we Americans may have let things go too far this time and there is no turning back. I don't believe the individual is powerless but I think the average American feels powerless. Or is it just lazy? Anyway, I hope I'm wrong.

Greetings from Madison! Wonderful article. Thanks for the support. Our 14 brave Democratic senators could use a helping hand. The governor has refused to direct deposit their paychecks and hotel bills are mounting. There is a campaign to donate $14 - $1 for each protesting senator. Go here if interested https://secure.actblue.com/contribute/page/wisconsinsolidarity?refcode=e2-don-kicker

Thanks!

Bev

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