Excuse me for a minute. After the disappointing results of the Wisconsin recall election last night, I felt that I had to vent about some things. I’m not normally a political person, but the events of the last 18 months have made the sidelines smaller and smaller, until there is no room for anyone to stand there. So here are some of my thoughts on the results of the new laws and changes that the Republican party has been pushing through recently.
Let me first start out with the thought that I don’t think that “Conservative” means what you think it means. The definition of conservative is “disposed to preserve existing conditions or limit change; cautiously moderate or purposefully low; traditional in style or manner, avoiding novelty or showiness.” In my opinion, nothing that has been rammed through the legislature recently has been conservative. It is all about shaking things up, reversing decades of progress, and in the case of Governor Scott Walker (yuck!), showing off on a national level. Walker has been called a “right-wing rock star”, which is a fairly good assessment. He has been touring the country instead of focusing on Wisconsin, showing off for all of the right-wing Republican business leaders and gathering most of his campaign contributions from outside the state. If he had been out there bringing in jobs instead of donations he may not have had to worry about the recall in the first place.
Speaking of jobs, let’s talk about the unions. I work for the State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue. I admit it, I am a tax collector. My job is to ensure that people comply with the tax laws of the state of Wisconsin, which means that I also have to sometimes forcibly collect money from people who can’t afford to pay it. It’s NOT a nice job. The only way I can rationalize it to myself is by saying I am helping people pay their taxes, whether they want to or not.
My position at DOR is covered by a union, and I support everything they do for me. That being said, I am also not a member of the union, and never have been. I have never paid dues to the union because my position was grandfathered in and I wasn’t required to join. So for the last seven years I have been enjoying the benefits of the union without paying the price. And I have felt guilty about it for the last seven years, but at the time my budget was so slim I couldn’t afford the extra expense. And then, last year, Scott Walker came in and stripped my rights away, completely castrating the Wisconsin unions and making it so they would be completely irrelevant.
Union detractors go on and on about how corrupt they are, and how union members are being forced to pay dues to out-of-state thugs that don’t do anything for them. They talk about how much better things would be if unions were banned. Either these people have no clue about how unions really work, or they are just plain lying on the behalf of corporate interests.
Unions were created by working people, in an effort to rein in the criminal activities of businesses that paid terrible wages for unsafe jobs. The employees would gather together as a group and elect a spokesperson to represent them at a bargaining table with their employer. Organized workers are the reason why people can now get a 40 hour work week, paid vacation time, sick leave, and job security. Even national unions still have local officers, elected by the people they represent. Union dues go mostly toward legal fees for people who have been wronged by their employers, as well as lobbying for things like increasing the minimum wage and instituting programs like OSHA, unemployment insurance, and workers compensation. The union promise has always been to protect the working class from corporate greed and carelessness.
So, back to the people who roll out the rhetoric about corrupt unions and laud the politicians like Scott Walker that attack them. These people rant about how the unions have given state workers “gold-plated pension plans” and health insurance at little or no cost, and how the benefits packages of state workers for things like vacation time and sick leave are so much better than what is available in the private sector. The truth about these things is that the reason the benefits are so much better is because we have given up pay increases in exchange for these things. The take-home pay of most state workers is well below the pay of people that do similar work in the private sector. Even when you add in the value of the benefits received, state workers average a lower annual compensation package than those in the private sector.
I guess the point I am trying to make about this is that, instead of working to take away the benefits that my union has fought hard to get for me, why aren’t these people trying to get the same benefits for themselves? Instead of complaining so much about the unions, why don’t they simply admit that they think the work that I do is not worth anything close to the amount I would get if I worked in the private sector? This type of attitude makes it that much harder for me to put up with the nut jobs that try to sue me for rejecting the payment that they sent drawn on a closed checking account.
I agree that the state and federal governments have become bloated, and their budgets are a recurring issue in all political campaigns. However, even if we have become a “bread and circuses” society, the fact of the matter is that every job cut is work that isn’t being done. If you want a highway to drive your car on, you need to pay for someone to manage it. If you want your car to be safe, you have to pay for safety inspections. If you want your governor to be held liable for his crimes (I wish!) you have to pay for the detectives and attorneys that will prosecute him. Reducing a budget often means cutting programs. The question is always, “which ones?”
When I started with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, my job was only part-time, working six hours a day to key in tax returns that were mailed in. It was a boring, repetitive job, and it was difficult to stay awake even for the six hours I was there. About a year later, my job was made full-time, but then just a few months after that they reorganized my section and my job was at risk. Thanks to the union contract, I was able to find another position at DOR, this time working as a typist for our attorneys. A much more interesting job, which also allowed me to develop some new computer skills. Those skills helped me out when after another year passed they eliminated that position as well. This time I was off to our new Workstation Support Unit, which was responsible for keeping the limited number (at that time) desktop computers working. I showed promise in the position, and was soon tapped to replace a woman on maternity leave as the main network cabling manager. I flourished in that job for about ten years, until 2005 when once again budget cuts put my position at risk. At that time I had been working for DOR for 12 years, and yet I was in the position of putting my resume out there and praying that I would be able to support my family. That’s when I took my current position as a tax collector. And the only reason I am still in this job is because I am afraid of what might happen if I transferred to something less stressful. With the recent economy and Wisconsin being dead last in the country for jobs, I would be a fool to risk losing a secure position. And despite the stress, I am fairly positive that they won’t get rid of the people bringing in the money.
So where was I? Oh yeah, this post is supposed to be about how destructive the Republican agenda is. So how does that fit in with destroying the unions?
Well, for one thing, putting the power into the hands of the corporations is just one more way of inciting rebellion. Take a look at the Occupy movement that has been sweeping the country, and even other parts of the world. All of these demonstrations have been in protest of companies doing terrible things without being held accountable by our government. And most of the people demonstrating feel that the reason for the lack of criminal charges being brought is because these business have bought immunity along with the politicians.
If we look back in history to the founding of this country, there is one event that is widely recognized as the start of the American Revolution: the Boston Tea Party. It is ironic that the new Tea Party has taken this event for their own, since it was the idea of “taxation without representation” that caused the Colonials to rebel against their English rulers. And now the modern-day Tea Party is pushing forward an agenda granting more and more power to the businesses that already have too much control over the country, leaving the common people feeling powerless and pissed off. I believe that very soon there will be a tipping point, a time when one more law will be passed taking away the rights of the common man and giving them to the corporations he is forced to work for at a wage that barely keeps body and soul together. When that point is reached, the demonstrations will no longer be peaceful. The brutalities of the police forces involved in the Occupy movement will be replaced by death and destruction by both the new Rebel Alliance and the troops of the National Guard. There will be a second American Revolution, and as the old saying goes, “they will start by killing all the lawyers.”
Wow. This post is getting long. And there is so much more to cover.
My next talking point about the Republican agenda is about the attacks on education. Most of the Republicans will argue that they aren’t destroying education. Instead they claim they are just trimming the fat by getting rid of the teacher’s unions. I’m sorry, but when the school janitor makes more than the teachers, there is already something wrong. And when a professional athlete makes 100 times the amount a teacher does, the world has turned upside down. And I fail to understand how eliminating the bargaining power the teachers have to get better salaries helps fix this issue.
Another attack on education is the school voucher system. What this program does is to allow for any student to have a certain amount of money provided by the government to attend the school of their choice. It sounds good, doesn’t it? It seems like it would allow poor students to attend better schools, which would be a good thing. While it does do that, unfortunately the voucher amount doesn’t cover the cost of any of the private schools, which means that any poor student would have to come up with the rest of the funds on their own. And the vouchers are also given to rich students already attending those private schools, meaning the government is subsidizing the education of people who can afford to pay for it already. Meanwhile the money used for the vouchers are funds taken directly away from the public schools that need it the most, leaving them even less able to educate all of the lower and middle class students that can’t afford the private school tuition even with the vouchers.
The end result? The private schools remain available only to the upper class, and the public schools fall apart and fail to educate anyone. It will be interesting to see what the world is like in ten years or so, when the only people graduating high school or college are the 1%. How do they expect to keep all of their big businesses staffed with professional, white-collar workers, when nobody will be able to afford the education required to do the work? We will either end up with companies being run by people brought in from other countries, or the businesses will simply be bought out or replaced by foreign corporations. In either case, the middle class of America will vanish. There will only be two classes: the Haves and the Have Nots. And 99% of us will fall into the latter category.
I don’t think I can continue with this much longer. This post is way too long as it is. But there is one more quick point I have to make.
The Republican War on Women is insane. There is absolutely no reason for all of these new laws against birth control. And it is simply stupid to pass a law requiring doctors to lie to their patients. The entire country is looking for our duly elected political leaders to do something about the national jobs crisis, and instead they waste countless dollars and hours passing these stupid laws that don’t create a single job. And the dumbest part is that none of these people realize a simple, basic fact: If you start a war against women, you will lose. I would like to close by quoting from the pilot episode of the Wonder Woman television show, way back when in 1975:
“The Nazis don’t care about their women. They let you fend for yourself. And any civilization that does not recognize the female is doomed to destruction. Women are the wave of the future, and sisterhood is stronger than anything.”
I hope you at least think about the ideas in this post. I may be wrong about some of my predictions, and I hope I am, but I am very, very afraid that I am not.
See you on the other side!