Madison, the capitol of the state of Wisconsin, resembled Cairo a little bit in the last few days. Thousands of demonstrators occupied the state parliament. They claimed they would stay there for weeks. Reason for the protest? The controversial plan of Republican governor, Scott Walker, to silence the unions of civil servants.
Walker leads his offensive with a law on budget savings as his excuse. [Editors note: Walker has proposed a bill to eliminate the collective bargaining rights of unions in his state] Civil servants in Wisconsin would not only have to give in strongly, their unions would also lose the right to close collective workers agreements for their members. This last point especially has been taken rather personally. The unions had prepared themselves to give in, but bluntly removing social consultation is seen by them as a violation of their rights.
This led to surreal circumstances in Wisconsin these past few days. While tens of thousands of people demonstrated in and around the Capitol building and the tea party brought in buses full of demonstrators, the Democratic senators were nowhere to be found. To avoid a final vote regarding Walker’s budget reduction law, they collectively fled the state and went into hiding in secret locations in the neighboring state of Illinois, where the state police sent by Walker were unable to force them to return. They threaten to stay away days, if not weeks, until Walker ceases his attack on the unions. Wisconsin was the very first state to allow civil servants to form unions, so they should feel responsible to maintain this.
As a consequence: If you can break the unions in Wisconsin, you can break them anywhere. Today, other Republican governors are setting up similar offensives against unions in a series of other states, such as Ohio (where people also protested), Indiana, Tennessee and New Jersey.
Why are they doing this? Clearly not for budgetary reasons; by taking away union rights you do not save a single penny. Wisconsin does not even have a big budgetary problem either. According to the neutral court of auditors of the state parliament, Wisconsin could have closed with a budget surplus. At least this would be the case if Governor Walker would not have introduced expensive tax reductions upon his arrival into office. Therefore it is a determinedly created crisis, which serves as an excuse to break the unions.
What you also do in this way is screw over the Democrats. After the controversial pronouncement of the Supreme Court in 2010, which gave companies the right to give unlimited donations to political candidates, unions are the only Democratic donors that can somehow keep up. It is not coincidental that the 2012 presidential elections are around the corner and Wisconsin will be a very crucial state in these elections.
And that is what this is all about: Republicans do not want to save; they want to clear all resistance in order to blow up the entire social contract on which American society is based.
Proof of this is the offensive they are leading in the nation’s Capitol to break down many rights and achievements. The Republicans won the interim elections in November under the motto 'Where are the jobs?” But since then they themselves have not lifted a finger to create any jobs. They seem mainly occupied with attempts to recall President Obama’s health care bill and his Wall Street reforms, to hollow out the lawful right to abortion, and sabotage all plans to get America’s CO2 emissions under control.
Republicans want to save $60 billion dollars in the new federal budget: a record amount. All this is done despite the fact that a lot of economists consider this a bad idea because it would suck critical amounts of money from a slowly recovering economy, and because it would cut tens of thousands of jobs within the government. The reaction to these remarks by Republican Chairman of the House of Representatives John Boehner: an imperturbable “So be it.”
And all this happens only weeks after he enforced another superfluous tax reduction for the rich. It is the kind of cowboy capitalism for which even the cowboys themselves would feel ashamed.