Wisconsin, Land of Action

« February 2011 »

Memo to Wisconsin: HOLY SHIT.

I've lived next door to Wisconsin for a long time, and in that time, Wisconsin has never been a hotbed of anything. I don't have anything against the place, it's just, you know. Wisconsin. Motherfuckers will sell you cheese products at the drop of a hat, but that's about it.

So how the hell did Wisconsin turn into the most dramatic political fight in decades? People are comparing it to Egypt, for fuck's sake, and while those people are crazy and wrong, I can sort of see their point. In 2011 America, anyone actually taking a stand and doing something about it seems like a revolutionary.

Here's the deal. Back in November, Wisconsin tacked hard right, voting out Russ Feingold and electing Scott Walker, a serious asshole, as their governor. You may recall me poking a little fun at Walker recently for suggesting that Illinois residents who'd just had their taxes raised come to Wisconsin, where the taxes were still higher.

You may also remember, from an even less recent column, that I mentioned how public employees were going to be the new scapegoat for all the massive state deficits caused by tax cuts and rampant unemployment. Well, Walker's second major act as governor, after cutting taxes, of course, is to propose draconian legislation that would strip Wisconsin's employees of the right to collective bargaining for everything except their basic wages.

In other words, by fiat, Walker and the Republican state legislature would make it against the law for unions to negotiate for benefits, work hours, health insurance, pensions, or safety conditions. This is completely fucking unacceptable, of course. There's no other industry that gets to unilaterally set the terms by which it will negotiate with the unions it employs. Walker's framing it as fiscal austerity, but the only thing keeping it from being old-fashioned union-busting is a lack of truncheons.

In response, tens of thousands protested, and teachers walked off the job, closing schools for at least two days. Walker, being an asshole, has threatened to call in the National Guard. ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"[The Guard is] prepared…for whatever the governor, their commander-in-chief, might call for... I am fully prepared for whatever may happen." It's always a bad sign when a governor calls himself the "commander in chief". Especially here, where it reads like Walker is putting on his own Dubya-style flight suit costume and getting ready to go down in conservative history as the man who won a great military victory over a bunch of schoolteachers and file clerks.

Plus, he wasn't actually fully prepared for whatever may happen, because he didn't take off his shoes and socks. Since he didn't take off his shoes and socks, he couldn't count to 20. Since he couldn't count to 20, the number of legislators required for a quorum, he wasn't prepared when all the Democratic legislators fled the state in protest, leaving... 19 Republicans unable to vote the union-busting bullshit into law. Oops.

The legislators had to leave the state because the Republicans sicced the State Police on them to bring them back, but like the Dukes of Hazzard, once the Dems jumped the crick, there was nothing Roscoe could do.

And there we stand. Republicans can't vote until Democrats come back, and Democrats won't come back until Republicans back down from the collective bargaining bullshit. And I couldn't be prouder. Confronted with an extremist power grab, they found the one piece of leverage they had, and used it, in a spectacular and attention-grabbing way.

Who knows, maybe this will even put a tiny dent in the lie that public employees are living high on the hog at the expense of private sector workers. Probably not, but it's at least an opportunity to slap some facts in front of people's eyeballs so that they can then reject those facts. It's not like it could make things worse - that's Scott Walker's job.