It was called Wisconsin meets Cairo, because just as things galvanized there in Tahrir Square for freedom, protests began massing in the Wisconsin state capitol as the governor put forth a budget stripping unions of nearly all collective bargaining rights, requiring members pay 30% percent into their retirement and pension funds, as with the private sector, blaming it all on budget constraints, prior fiscal irresponsibility and his mandate to his electorate. For days teachers and other unionized workers descended on the capitol, holding signs, chanting while state democrats fled in order to honor their constituents by not losing a crucial vote they had no way to win. Finally fed up with closed schools, due to lack of teachers showing up to work, no vote, due to MIA democrats, republicans and the governor decided to remove the budgetary elements allowing for a partial vote with present members of state congress, passing the controversial bill. Amidst protests popping up in neighboring heavily unionized states Ohio, Indiana, Illinois democrats and on-looking experts questioned whether or not this legislative maneuvering violated the open meetings law, only for governor Scott Walker go forward anyway. Democrats vowing to take legal action, a judge granting an injunction to have more time to investigate legislature; in an end run around that, instead of being publish by the secretary of state’s office it was published by the Legislative Reference Bureau, meaning Walker is acting as if the law is in effct. Until this week that is, when the judge resposible for the opriganial ruling clarfied not only was it a cease and disist on publication but an enjoinemt. And so the fight goes on.
While the more cynical among us could easily point to said tactics, budget slicing, program cutting and say this is what happens when you drink the conservative Kool-aid, put into office bean counters and dollar hounds fed up with government spending, turns out wasn’t so out of control after all, intelligent Americans know this is not the way to do things, that there have to be better solutions. But then again Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s actions prove it was never about fiscal responsibility; it was about money, apparently lining the pockets of everyone but state employees. Although an attack on unions shouldn’t be surprising considering the business practices deemed acceptable during recent years. It reads like one more blow to the common worker, a final gut punch to an era gradually punctuated by more and more restrictions companies not offering maternity leave, sick leave, vacation days; of those that do employees afraid to take them for fear of their job. Headline worthy firings for seemingly minor infractions so frequent the public barely pays attention and can’t keep up. Basic business etiquette a thing of the past, sound business practice obsolete, replaced by predatory profit seeking at all costs, corner cutting, illegalities, regulations ignored, sanctions and fines toothless in stopping negligible regard for safety, conflicts of interest and situations that threaten the public at large, not to mention contribute to a worsening economy when businesses are closed, ecosystems, local economies and reputations destroyed while big businesses remain unscathed.
So of course the next logical step for these businesses is to co-opt legislatures into undermining even outright disbanding unions some still however may struggle with the why; for that you have to look at what unions are responsible for establishing in their early days and holding to now. Staples of the working world like the 40 hour work week, overtime pay and safety rules; again considering today’s increasingly cutthroat business climate, it makes a twisted sort of sense, pushed by recession, the housing crisis, frantic need for job creation lawmakers, heavily backed by businesses are going to go along with this. Equally opportunistic businesses, scared by rising healthcare costs, generally greedy by nature are going to line themselves up with political views abolishing collective bargaining; because while increased pension and retirement payments on the part of employees is what they want now, it sets the stage to likewise remove established 40 hour work weeks, effectively removing any need for overtime pay in a time when the 40 hour work week is already a myth. Beyond factory work segmented into 12 hour shifts, beyond specialty jobs like fire fighters, paramedics who work in 24 cycles, beyond med students and residents on their way to being doctors, all of whom may or may not be getting formal overtime; salaried workers like teachers get paid X dollars no matter how many hours they put in, some in charter, independent and alternative schools pulling 80-90 hour workweeks to raise standards, be available to students. But it even goes far beyond that; the average worker in America taking home anything outside minimum wage, working in a career rather than a medial job, does much more than a 40 hour workweek be it finishing a presentation, wrapping up loose ends for an event overseeing remodel for a house you’re selling, whatever your job entails.
Similarly we’ve seen what consequences are brought from lax safety regards and low enforcement of regulations, the BP oil spill, mine collapses and that’s with agencies like OSHA, that’s with legalities and regulations; imagine what would happen without them. Sadly we don’t have to it was the United States turn of the 20th century, injured, maimed workers rendered unable to work in deplorable conditions with none of the safety nets like workman’s comp, disability or adequate medical care. Enter why what Scott Walker is doing is so insidious; hints the reactions of citizens, punctuated all the more by end-running not but once but twice around the law, punctuated all the more by states like Ohio, Rhode Island using his momentum to try and outlaw strikes by public employees in their states. Not only does it put additional stress on already finically strapped people now, it propels us towards more working poor, which is not just another label, people who have jobs who can’t get by, working homeless, people working far past even the projected hikes in retirement age, something fraught with it’s own troubling issues. Next they’ll stop providing pension plans, retirement benefits, public or private employee; social security is already in jeopardy on the verge of extinction. What’s after that, abolishing Medicare, Medicaid seniors, children and disabled absent any kind of healthcare, a forerunner to a disease epidemic. Why stop there, why not dissolve all laws pertaining to fair hiring, workplace discrimination, rescind child labor laws so kids can help support their families, stop mandating they attend school for the same reason? Again this was turn of the 20th century America, why child labor laws, education mandates, safety standards, discrimination guidelines came to exist in the first place.
Neither is it necessary to do these things, regardless of financial constraints, the opinion being that businesses saddled with new regulations won’t hire; businesses have never liked regulation but have never operated fairly without it. Businesses don’t need more regulation they need the right regulation unfortunately including formerly rudimentary things no one had to tell businesses about basic business etiquette, how to structure your workforce to prevent running workers ragged, what makes you a reputable business as opposed to a shady one independent of the laws on the books. But that’s not where to begin, we should begin with trimming the salaries, pay of public management i.e. senators, bosses exc.; some scrupulous business people willing to go to any lengths to avoid layoffs, firings, have refused to take a salary themselves. If the Wisconsin budget is so concerning to him why not start with himself and his fellow members of the legislature? How about preventing cases like the California town where salaries surpassed that of the president, because while experts were correct in saying such situations were atypical and not the cause of budget crises nation wide, not having such instances occur means added funds to ease burdens, however slightly.
Speaking of the president, he and the United States government are not off the hook for the current issues we’re facing nor should individual states, their governments be the ones bearing the brunt of the blame when we have countless overlapping agencies meant to protect, oversee the same thing seemingly capable only of running a very large ponzi or pyramid scheme on the American tax payer. 82 agencies, departments in charge of roads, 47 for job training, some for programs that no longer exist. Dealing with the food we eat, eggs for example; the department of agriculture oversees food the chicks eat, another agency the health of the chick and yet another agency the quality of the egg itself. After compelling public management to take a pay cut, refuse pay, we trim the redundancies out of the federal government creating no more than one backup, oversight for each agency, combining, consolidating and streamlining the sheer number of agencies where possible, not letting sloppy book keeping, clerical errors and incompetence send monies, benefits to the deceased, persons who no longer qualify, not repeating the situation we have now where there are 8 heads and the simplest things can’t get done.
Coupled with these actions would be a reformation of the tax code to prohibit corporations, businesses all, large and small, from setting up offshore bank accounts thus avoiding taxation. Ensuring everyone business and citizen pays their taxes, paying attention and again not letting sloppy bookkeeping, clerical errors and incompetence allocate monies to companies frivolously, mistakenly, ignoring continued and purposeful tax evaders. Closing other loopholes allowing companies to file for tax breaks, benefits they do not need. An action giving more money to governments state and national to operate, that might gradually produce a dent in the national debt. Case in point, G.E. CEO Jeffery Immelt, appointee to President Obama’s jobs council, runs a company achieving staggering profits simultaneously paying no income tax for 2010 on top of receiving 3 billion in tax benefits. 3 billion that should have been in America’s pocket, 3 billion that could prevent the cut to organ transplants reeking havoc, taxation for the obese being floated as healthcare cost reduction, both in Arizona; 3 billion preventing cuts to education, infrastructure, police, firefighting personnel in New Jersey. Multiply said 3 billion times other companies of similar size, similar profit getting the same break; then add to it what they should have paid in taxes heaven only knows what could be done with that. Do the same across the country to all businesses, on a scale according to size, profits, how taxes are supposedly currently determined anyway and you nearly pay for Obama’s two wars he inherited by the way, ease the cost of what is happening in Libya, just to start.
Notice too not one of these things involves raising citizen taxes one cent, increasing pension or retirement account pay ins for workers, dissolving collective bargaining, unions, any long held institution intended to contribute to the good of the common person. Likewise things off the table are cuts to essential programs possibly endangering the public with less fire, police and other public workers; nothing boarders on the inhumane more than denying lifesaving medical care in favor of saving a few bucks. Why these tangible solutions have not previously been implemented speaks to the complete lack of imagination on the part of legislatures, no real wish to bite the hand that feeds them, nearly blind panic over the state of affairs and solutions steeped in tradition, things done as they always have been. Characteristic of politics independent of how Avant-garde the tea party thinks it is, notwithstanding how many new and novice politicians join the ranks; how unfortunate for America and its people.