Friday, 25 February 2011
This was originally posted at Atheism Resource.
The situation in Wisconsin has been all over the news recently. Newly elected Governor Scott Walker has brought forward legislation that would strip unions of their collective bargaining rights. In Wisconsin the bill exempts police officers and firefighters, something a nearly identical measure here in Ohio has not done. The employees who will lose their rights span from sanitation workers to doctors and include teachers, who are protesting in droves with many of their students joining them. In Wisconsin the populace is engulfing their capitol building, protesting in hundreds of thousands for days on end. Here in Ohio, we are protesting in the thousands, and those numbers keep going up. The picture atop this post is one I snapped mid day on Tuesday, when the throngs were not even a fraction of what they were later in the day. If ever there was a time when the citizenry had made their wishes undeniably clear, it is right now.
But Gov. Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. Kasich of Ohio are not listening. Walker responded to the objections of the populace he is charged with protecting by activating the national guard, preparing our soldiers who, by name, are there to guard the people who make up our nation, to be used against American citizens should their displeasure with the government continue to rise. This is a marvelous inversion of the way things ought to be. When our leaders must attempt to intimidate Americans into compliance, when they require such protection from the very people they are elected to empower, it can only be a sure sign that they no longer represent those people – and that they do not care to.
This was confirmed recently when Ian Murphy called Walker posing as one of Walker’s largest campaign contributors: energy mogul David Koch. Walker swallowed it and went on and on assuring “Koch” that the unions would be crushed.
The Democrats, who are not my favorite people either at the moment, have amazingly grown balls in Wisconsin as of late. How did the House Republicans respond to the Dem’s new found backbone?
Debate had gone on for 60 hours and 15 Democrats were still waiting to speak when the vote started around 1 a.m. Friday. Speaker Pro Tem Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, opened the roll and closed it within seconds.
Democrats looked around, bewildered. Only 13 of the 38 Democratic members managed to vote in time.
Republicans immediately marched out of the chamber in single file. The Democrats rushed at them, pumping their fists and shouting “Shame!” and “Cowards!”
The Republicans walked past them without responding.
Democrats left the chamber stunned. The protesters greeted them with a thundering chant of “Thank you!” Some Democrats teared up. Others hugged.
“What a terrible, terrible day for Wisconsin,” said Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee. “I am incensed. I am shocked.”
GOP leaders in the Assembly refused to speak with reporters, but earlier Friday morning Majority Leader Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, warned Democrats that they had been given 59 hours to be heard and Republicans were ready to vote.
Needless to say, the army of protesters both inside and outside the building was livid.
In response to protesters in Ohio on Tuesday, Gov. Kasich locked down the capitol building. They’re not talking, and they’re sure as hell not listening. And now the Indiana Republicans are attempting to enact similar legislation, as are the governments of Tennessee and Oklahoma and, as Walker told “Koch”, they could do the same in Michigan and Florida.
Why are unions and collective bargaining important? Because it keeps the power in the hands of the populace. This is a necessary tool for when shit like this happens:
Rhode Island school district definitely took budget cutting to the extreme when it sent a letter out to its teachers on Tuesday: you’re all fired.With a projected deficit of nearly $40 million for the school department, Superintendent Tom Brady told teachers the budget situation was dire. So dire, it seems, that the department sent dismissal notices to all 1,926 of its teachers, according to CBS affiliate WPRI.
Unions give public employees the ability to fight back against things like this.
It is the assault on education that most disturbs me (and confirms in my mind that Republican support right now truly lies with the uneducated and the billionaires who count on them). We have passed the time when being a naturally resource-rich nation will be sufficient to make us a global powerhouse. With technology ever on the rise, the true power in the future of our species lies in ingenuity. Soon it will not be about how much oil you have, but about how to find power elsewhere. It will be about how to make synthetic food that is better for us than food that costs pounds of grain to produce. Ideas will be the salvation of humanity and the quality of ideas will determine which nation wields the most influence as time flows forward. By gutting education, and by allowing the Republican party in its current configuration to gut education through union-busting measures, we are not only sacrificing average household income on the altar of corporate greed, but we are conceding the battle of ideas in the future.
Speaking of eviscerating household income, these charts tell a very revealing story.
If the situation with Scott Walker tells us anything, it is that the class war has truly become a situation of us vs. them, and it tells us that when presented with the option of siding with Americans or with the money that many of our leaders have elected the latter. The Scott Walker and John Kasich breed of politicians, whom we employ to look after our interests, have sided with the red line in that graph that keeps moving upward. They are not looking out for 80% of us who have lost money since 1979 and continue to do so. Rather than taxing the two-thirds of corporations in Wisconsin which, according to Wisconsin Department of Revenue, pay no taxes, Republicans want to bleed the rest of us. And when we erupt about it they are activating our soldiers rather than listening. We heard it directly from Walker’s mouth: “Let ‘em protest all they want…Sooner or later the media stops finding it interesting.” They do not care that their charges are up in arms and they are cramming through legislation that empowers the wealthy at our expense.
Maybe we just need more numbers. Saturday there will be protests across the nation and I urge all of you to join them. But if protesting en masse is not sufficient, what would be? I will be out at the capitol building here in Columbus tomorrow joining the thousands of protesting the teachers, doctors, firefighters,police officers, and the good ol’ American people who are casting a cacophony of pleas for protection from lousy pay and horrid working condition upon the deaf ears of the wealthy and the politicians who have aligned themselves with them. I’ll be out there, and I promise that the entire time I will be unable to purge the words of John Basil Barnhill from my thoughts:
“Where the people fear the government you have tyranny. Where the government fears the people you have liberty.”
The government in some states has clearly stopped fearing the people. The truth about the matter is that the class war has stopped being implicit. Scott Walker, John Kasich, and the Republican party that supports them have declared this war, all the while telling us that they’re trying to help us. This not only tells us what we’re up against, but it tells us precisely what they think of us. They don’t worry about our protests, they don’t worry about the well-being of the lower and middle classes, and they damn sure don’t care that we’re furious. Egypt has shown us that more or less peaceable protests eventually worked, but they also showed that by the time the leader was ready to listen to the people that he was petrified to stay in the country. I hope that follows suit here, but my I have some serious doubts. My father always used to say that nobody ever went broke underestimating the American people, and through years of living in the United States I’ve come to believe it – in fact, David Koch, Scott Walker, John Kasich and other have done quite well for themselves. I hope my cynicism about the whole system proves to be misplaced, but I expect precisely what we’ve always gotten: an uninformed populace of god-drunk, uninformed citizens bleating their patriotism as they vote for the candidate who has received enough corporate donations to feed them the most Jesus, even as those candidates pad their pockets at the American family’s expense.
No matter how pissed off you are, if you’re one of the average Joe or average Jane Americans, or if there’s any part of you that cares about democracy or protecting the rights of meek, you’re not pissed off enough.