Feb 20, 2011
Tens of thousands of public workers and their allies continue to hold their ground in Madison, and large numbers of Chicagoans are there to support them. Buses carrying supporters, organized by Chicago Jobs With Justice, leave Monday morning at 6 a.m. from Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington, scheduled to return at 9 p.m.
Rev. Jesse Jackson calls it “the epicenter of the struggle for America’s future” in John Nichol’s rich account of the civil rights leader’s visit Friday to the Capitol in Madison.
Public employee unions have offered to negotiate over pension and health insurance concessions in order to address the state’s budget problems, but Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has refused, according to Huffington Post’s coverage.
In fact, the state has no deficit for the current budget year, according to a recent memo by the state’s fiscal bureau cited by the Madison Capitol Times. But in a few weeks in office – while failing so far on his campaign promise to create or attract 1,000 jobs a week – Walker has pushed through $140 million in tax breaks, subsidies and other tax expenditures, as the public interest group One Wisconsin Now details. [More on this below.]
Also in HuffPost’s coverage, Amanda Terkel points out that “two-thirds of corporations in the state pay no tax, and the corporate share of tax revenue has fallen by half since 1981,” citing the state’s revenue department.
Forbes reports the billionaire Tea Party funders, the Koch brothers, are big players in the state — and major backers of the effort to roll back public unions.
It’s a classic use of the “shock doctrine” – the exploitation of a crisis to push through unpopular austerity measures and reduce public participation, as Naomi Klein explains in an interview with Chris Hayes on MSNBC.
Walker didn’t campaign on a promise to bust unions, he campaigned on promises to cut taxes, Klein points out. His new agenda constitutes a “constricting of democracy,” she says, because it would severely reduce the ability of workers to participate in decisions that affect them.
Hayes points out that the attack is focused on teachers – and it’s worth noting that legislation restricting teachers’ collective bargaining rights is being pushed by big-money interests right now in Illinois, and getting support from some Democratic politicians, including Mayor Daley and Rahm Emanuel.
At the Nation, former labor organizer Jane McAlevey lays out the national context – “emboldened by November’s election results, corporations and their right-wing allies have launched what they hope will be their final offensive against America’s unions” – and also lays out what will be needed to stop them.
[2-21 — A reader points out that on Thursday, Politifact disputed the analysis by the Madison Capital Times – that the state budget was headed for a surplus and Walker’s tax giveaways created the deficit. Citing analyses by the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and AP, Politifact argues that the state has unpaid bills that will drive the current budget into deficit, and that Walker’s tax cuts impact the upcoming budget, not the current one.
At the same time, a New York Times editorial published Friday scores most of the tax breaks against the current budget, saying Walker “is refusing to accept his own share of responsibility for the state’s projected $137 million shortfall,” referring to the tax breaks passed last month. And a Friday post at Talking Points Memo quotes a former state senator saying the current shortfall was “manufactured by Governor Walker’s own insistence on making the deficit worse with the bills he passed in January.”
Such confusion would at least support the contention that this draconian measure is being advanced with too much haste, as the Northwestern of Oshkosh argues.
But by cutting business taxes while declaring a budget crisis, Walker gives credence to charges (from Paul Krugman among others) that his agenda is not fixing the budget but getting rid of unions.]