Sunday, February 20th, 2011

Burning Down Wisconsin: The Hidden Budget Bill Item Even Worse Than Union Busting

Read all of our Wisconsin coverage here.

It's already been a long weekend in Madison, Wisconsin. Protesters slept on the capitol floor and some Republican state legislators, after attempting to hold an illegal vote on Friday, made excuses for why they would not be seen in the communities they represent.

Republican Senator Alberta Darling canceled her weekend plans to attend an event in Menomonee Falls, a city she represents. She tweeted, "I will not be attending ChillyFest in MF tomorrow. I have to be ready at a moment's notice to go back to Madison to do the people's work." Maybe because she was born in Indiana and grew up in Peoria, Illinois, she's unaware that Menomonee Falls is even closer to Madison than her home near the lake in River Hills.

Once it became clear that Democrats would not be seen in public, the state patrol was ordered to retrieve them and drag them back to make quorum. That State Patrol is newly under the command of Stephen Fitzgerald, one of Governor Scott Walker's latest appointments. Stephen just happens to be the father of Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald—Wisconsin's most powerful Republicans. (After being trounced by a 2-to-1 margin in the November election for Dodge County sheriff, Fitzgerald was rewarded with the State Patrol position.)

Welcome to the New Wisconsin Idea, where intellectualism is a handicap in a state now leading a reactionary revolution. Somewhere around 60,000 people each day turned out for the GOP's all new show, where the marquee event is watching middle class workers, private and public, rip each other to shreds while the vampiric money class sops up the blood.

Famous national acts old and new showed up to attach their faces to the goings on in the Badger State. Jesse Jackson. Andrew Breitbart. The one thing the legacy acts had in common was that, whatever happened, they won't be worse off financially.

Breitbart, presumably taking a break from his recent promise to "obtain justice for the truly and legitimately discriminated against American black farmers," was joined by Madison's right wing radio host Vicki McKenna. Mckenna, as we noted last week, had manufactured a claim that liberals were calling for Walker's assassination. Their pro-Walker rally drew several thousand.

Don't let Breitbart or anyone else complain about a lack of coverage of the tea party counter-protest. The Wisconsin State Journal, ran an entire photo journal titled "Saturday protests at the Capitol"—which contained photos only of the Walker supporters. It also contained a statement about the reading of "a letter from Alaska Governor and TEA Party supporter Sarah Palin during the gathering." (The Journal apparently forgot that Palin resigned years ago.)

Milwaukee AM 620 radio's Charlie Sykes reported on a Madison where "mobs roamed the halls" and "a senior senator was spat on." (Video or it didn't happen.) Noting the garbage in the square, the account exclaimed, exasperatedly, "This is one of the most beautiful Capitol buildings in the country." That Governor Scott Walker has announced the unprecedented plan to give his budget address not in this "most beautiful Capitol" but at a private (inaccessible) business is an irony probably lost on almost everyone at the channel.

Sykes' report also claimed that legislators "had been told to clear the Capitol because the new groups coming in overnight are filled with with people "who aren't afraid to be arrested'."

(Back in reality, one person at the rally who definitely knew about getting arrested by Madison police was Vicki McKenna herself. Back in June of 1997, when McKenna's job was pushing the fart button for the Z104 FM morning show, she was booked under her real name (Vicki Pyzynski) for drunken and disorderly conduct and resisting arrest—at a U2 show. The arresting officer called McKenna "verbally and physically combative.")

In any event, by 6 p.m., Andrew Breitbart was already off for Chicago, which brings the total time he found worth investing in Madison at around five hours, at best.

Meanwhile, in the rhetorical trudge, the Washington Post wins the weekend with the Stephen Stromberg column, headlined: "Wisconsin's governor is not Hitler." We can confirm that that is correct.

It will certainly bum out Breitbart, Mckenna and Fox News to learn that, in the end, the demonstrations were peaceful. On Saturday at 6 p.m., Madison police reported that, with an estimated 60,000 people in attendance, not only were there no arrests, but also "no major incidents." Think about that for a minute. Nearly 60,000 impassioned and angry people arriving in a venue that did not plan for them resulted in zero arrests.

Some who could not be there for the protest showed support for the tens of thousands of cheeseheads in the most appropriate way possible: with cheese. Gooey, gooey cheese. By late day Saturday, Ian's Pizza at 115 State Street reported taking 40 orders for pizza to be delivered to the demonstrators at the Capitol square.

L.A. comedian Jen Kirkman sent a pizza. Demonstrator Christine thanked her for it.

Through the weekend, calls to fire all of the Madison teachers who called in sick to protest were repeated. That this demand was of Madison teachers could not be more preposterous. Madison graduates 94 percent of its high school students (compared to a national average of around 70 percent). Just three years ago Forbes named Madison the second best city in all of America in which to educate a child. This is just one of the high rankings of Madison nationally—from safest for children, to elderly quality of life, to live music, to most innovative to, simply, best all around.

When this whole incident is done, it will probably force many residents of Madison (maybe justifiably) to double down in the belief that so much of the rest of the in-reverse state can just go disappear up its own anus.

* * *

One thing that's been lost in all the bluster about the union busting measures was all the other juicy stuff in the bill itself. The very first detail not to be mentioned is that the "unreasonable" Wisconsin Education Association Council, Wisconsin's largest teacher's union—the one that Walker insists will not negotiate—just two weeks ago announced that it supports both merit-based pay reform and measures that would streamline the firing of under-performers.

It is all of those other juicy, and difficult to fully grasp, measures that probably had Walker pushing the bill through so fast. Jack Craver, of Madison's favorite free paper, the Isthmus, asked on Saturday: "Could the threat of union-busting be a ruse to extract the most painful pay cuts from public employees in recent memory?" Craver's theory is:

Walker went ahead with the most radical plan possible. And why not? His GOP majorities should have assured him victory, and who cares about unions anymore, he must have reasoned. Less than a fifth of Wisconsin's workers belong to them, and most of those are in the public sector, meaning their suffering could be framed as a victory for everybody else.

Backing up this scenario: new polling data indicating public sentiment shifting against Walker's bill, results the governor is now trying to explain away Dick Nixon style with "quiet majority" theory.

But I'll do Craver one better and propose that Walker's hard line on the whole union battle is a trick of complete misdirection from provisions in the bill that look much more dire. Just like a writer who hates being edited will include a garbage paragraph to protect the copy he or she really wants preserved while allowing the editor to feel useful, Walker's union attack may be a ploy to distract from his "administrative rules" changes regarding Medicaid.

Wisconsin's union employees are upset about a loss of collective bargaining and a mandated increase in benefit payments, including for health insurance. But at least these employees would still have health insurance. What has been widely ignored about Walker's bill (in part because of the speed with which he's fisting it down Wisconsin's gullet) is a sneaky provision that paves the way for him to cut, or eliminate, Medicaid and BadgerCare healthcare benefits for low-income people.

Administrative rules changes sound about as interesting as the words "administrative rules." And Walker's "administrative rule" change is the kind of complex, procedural legislative legalese that few reporters are sickly masochistic enough to slog through. (And it's especially true that nobody reports on America's rising war on the poor. This was evidenced by the fact that major network stars have yet to appear in Madison, and, until this weekend, the tens of thousands sleeping in the capitol warranted segment bites equal in length and depth to the latest update on reporter Serene Branson's migraine.)

So in short: Walker's administrative rules change would allow the Department of Health Services, via the overwhelmingly GOP-controlled budget committee, to change state laws unilaterally, skipping the legislative process altogether. In terms Vicki McKenna can understand, this means Walker's bill will allow the governor to subvert the legislative process and make his own laws without going through the tiresome and long American tradition of lawmaking. But wait, there's more!

Not only should there be no doubt Walker would do this, his statements foreshadow who he would blame it on. On Feb 11th, before Madison got in the labor movement time machine, the governor said, "The alternative [to state employee health and pension changes] is to look at 1,500 layoffs of state employees or close to 200,000 children who would be bumped off Medicaid-related programs." At the time, PolitiFact Wisconsin asked, "But can he remove children from Medicaid, the state-federal program that pays medical bills for low-income individuals and families?"

Not without the administrative rules change he can't—the changes he's going to get when this bill passes. The advantage of this approach to gutting Medicaid is that it avoids the nuisance legislative process that is currently gumming up a similar war on the poor in Texas.

In all Walker's talk about private industry providing health insurance, and trimming back state outlays to health care, one fact that doesn't get answered is exactly what the tens of thousands of people with private industry jobs who are also on state health assistance are to do. The apostrophes in Wisconsin employers like Menard's, Roundy's, McDonald's, Land's End and Kohl's don't ever precede the term "health insurance plan." Those businesses have thousands of employees who are listed on the rolls of BadgerCare. BadgerCare recipients listed as employed at Wal-Mart alone number just shy of 10,000.

But wait! Just who has Walker appointed to head up the newly powerful Department of Health Services? A villain as innocuously named as the term "administrative rule" itself, Dennis Smith. As Capital Times reporter Shawn Doherty points out in a woefully overlooked piece, Smith is a fellow at The Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank hostile to Medicaid. How hostile? In 2009, Smith himself authored a paper titled "Medicaid Meltdown: Dropping Medicaid Could Save States $1 Trillion," which concludes "failure to leave Medicaid might be viewed as irresponsible on the part of elected state officials."

Yes, irresponsible.

To review: Walker argues that his bill's benefit cuts are to bring public employees more in line with the realities of the state's private workforce—while acknowledging that one of those realities is that hundreds of thousands of those in the private workforce rely on low income benefit assistance from the state. Meanwhile, the same bill making this argument paves the way to cut—without opposition, debate or legislative due process—those very same benefits.

What Walker really means when he says that Wisconsin is "open for business" is that Wisconsin is "closed for poor people."

UPDATE: Sunday Night
As a follow-up of sorts: Tonight the Governor defended his bill by tweeting a link to a post at The Heritage Foundation.

The post, titled, "Myths vs. Facts of the Wisconsin Union Protest," supports Walker's bill by, in part, arguing that few opponents understand the gravity and size of the budget deficit.

Tweeting throughout the day, the link was one of only four links Gov. Walker provided to information or opinion defending his bill.

It just happens that Tina Korbe, the author of that Heritage piece, graduated with a BA in journalism from the University of Arkansas… in 2010.

More? As late as 2006, Korbe was a "Top 8 finalist" in the Arkansas Jr. Miss pageant. The year before, she was a semi-finalist in the Miss Arkansas' Outstanding Teen Pageant. No worries though, she already was Miss Teen Diamond Lakes 2005.

So, to put that in perspective, when the governor of the entire state of Wisconsin finds time to defend a bill that could severely impact the financial well-being of hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin workers, not to mention instituting the most sweeping changes to the balance of the state's labor relations in 50 years, who does he point to? An 22-year-old (at best) who grew up in Arkansas and graduated with an undergraduate degree in journalism less than a year ago.

No coincidence that the $43,000 Walker received from the Koch Brothers during his campaign (making them his second largest donor) and the fact that The Heritage Foundation is funded, in the millions of dollars, by the same Koch Brothers?

It's slowly becoming quite clear. Walker is far too much of a nincompoop to have alone concocted such a surgical attack on the middle class and poor as this bill represents. The only explanation is that the governor's actions only come on behalf of whichever Koch brother's hand happens to be inserted up his rectum, working the puppet.

Top photo from anti-teacher rally via. For updates throughout the day follow #wiunion or #notmywi. You can reach Abe Sauer at abesauer [at]

51 Comments / Post A Comment

citizencurator (#9,940)

Why do so many Republicans love money more than they love other human beings?

Thanks for the article, Abe. (I think.)

grandpa27 (#804)

Abe, I am 100% with you on this.

grandpa27 (#804)

Go see what Robert Reich has to say.

caw_caw (#5,641)

Thanks for your reporting on this Abe

turd_sandwich (#5,660)

Seriously appreciated!! I pulled up the bill Friday, wondering if union stuff might be a trojan horse, but was too lazy to scan 144 pages.

As an aside, for all the "2,000+ page health care bill, blabbity, blah, blah" folks (who I know don't read theawl), if this Wisconsin bill were written in the format of federal legislation, it likely would weigh-in around 1,000 pages (total ballpark estimate).

riggssm (#760)

Abe, terrific reporting.

Telegram Sam (#3,847)

To me this budget smacks of the same logic as "If we have no employees we don't have to pay anybody!" I've got annoying clients, but without them I don't have ANY work. Instead of building up incomes and the tax base they're zeroing everything out and, aside from ideological, I don't see what there is to gain.

jrb (#3,020)

Great reporting, great analysis, great overall.

lily bart (#4,656)

Thanks for this. If I had the ability to take days off from work this week, I would be there. Since I can't, what's the best way to help/show support?

amuselouche (#448)

I don't know about the best way, but according to some friends on the ground one of the most appreciated ways to help them in terms of both morale and general physical comfort is by supporting the local businesses that have been volunteering food deliveries to the Capitol. Any orders of pizza and hot beverages are especially a hit.
From the UW Madison TA list this includes:
Capital Centre Market
Cargo Coffee
Community Pharmacy
Ian’s Pizza
Just Coffee
Marigold Kitchen
Mermaid Cafe
Regent Street Market
Underground Kitchen
Union Cab
Weary Traveler
Willy Street Coop

lily bart (#4,656)

I'm on it, thanks!

frank (#9,995)

Thanks for this article. This is some of the best analysis of the situation in Wisconsin I've seen. One of the ads on the page was for the Stand With Walker website, by the by.

Baroness (#273)

Superb job, Abe. Seeing the "shock doctrine" in action is a frightening thing, and the devil truly is in the details. Thanks for shining a light on those details, they get lost in the showy clamor of television and in the woeful state of our press.

grandpa27 (#804)

Also, I have no job, I have no taxable income. I pay no taxes. Go figure.

Danzig! (#5,318)

Great article! It kinda fucks me up that every liberal I know is bleating about Congress' meaningless showboating when, on the state level, conservative activists have been ten steps ahead of them for years, dismantling governments through anti-tax legislation. You sleep on "Taxpayer's Bill of Rights" bullshit, this is what you get. Great job, Dems.

DennyCrane (#1,803)

A tremendous article. Just … wow.

Abe, thanks for showing us the devil lurking in the details. I had no idea.

michaelepping (#9,997)

First, thank you for being one of the few people out there covering this issue in such a thoughtful manner.

I'm a student at UW-Madison, and I marched with the students and TAs who walked out on Thursday. I was inside the rotunda that day when it was announced that the Democratic senators had fled the state. The reality of the situation really set in when I was standing with a group of older teachers union members and they were crying at the sight of such overwhelming support inside and outside the capitol building. It really felt like one of the most important things I'd ever been involved with because this was such a serious matter for so many people. I've never been part of public union (but I was unionized as a young worker for Roundy's in Milwaukee during high school), but the its easy to see that an assault on public union rights is really an assault on all middle class Wisconsinites.

I was also at the capitol all day Saturday where I marched around the square with thousands of other people. It was extremely disheartening to see the attention lavished on the relatively small Tea Party protest by the media. (especially by Fox Business, which didn't seem to have a clear reason for being there) However, the positivity of the union crowds and the uplifting nature of the speeches were truly inspirational. There's a lot of fear about how this whole thing will turn out, and the misinformation out there certainly isn't helping.

So, once again, thank you for trying to cover this situation honestly.

mrbadexample (#9,998)

Wait I am confuse, how could this happen when we all know that the fabulous dem designed, super progressive health care reform bill has been passed? I thought that everyone would have healthcare and be OK just like Biden say, BIG FUCKING DEAL "un". Medicaid is an unfunded mandate, since the dems had not the balls (nor desire) to institute single payer costs will continue to be borne by the state who cannot print money and monetize their debts like the feds. The republicans are basterds, sure, but the dems have no solution to state budget crisis and Obama's new budget has nothing to say about how to handle entitlement spending for states. THe formula for paying federal medicaid funds depends on how poor the state is – but as long as costs keep rising the poor states will go bankrupt paying for it, because the feds can just add their contribution to the deficit, while states have to come up with more and more money each year even if their contribution is smaller than 50% of medicaid costs. This article is simplistic, their has been a titanic shift in the economy and high unemployment/low growth is the new normal, meaning low tax receipts. Public unions are just stealing from their fellow working man, higher taxes for the rich are coming no matter what, it's inevitable, but Obama is waiting for term 2. In the meantime nobody will touch entitlement reform due to political consequences, so Obama and dem congress is at much at fault for these medicaid cuts as the republicans.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

Um, like they said great article about 200,000 kids being deprived of cheese pizza and tv exposure but I have much shorter and funnier version.

Let's say that Kevin Costner starred in a movie that was loosely based on reality about one guy deciding the future of a presidential election…

Bear with me. It includes a kid somehow.

And that guy had been marked for death by a powerful and well-connected cult and actually implemented their completely unbelievable plot to kill Kevin Costner…

Don't worry, I'm getting to the funny part.

See they did this while the secretive leftwing media cabal was watching from their balcony toasting each other with wine in celebration of their awesomeness.

And what if Kevin Costner got really really angry and went all ffffuuuuuuuu?

Come to think of it there really isn't a funny part.

Unless you have a liver hiding in your freezer. Enjoy your sunday BAAAWWWWWW about losing.

Glyph Snorting (#10,029)

The presence of wine here gives this real impact IMO.

DuluthMN (#10,002)

Walker is a douchebag. Minnesota finally says goodbye to TPaw and now we have to watch this ass across the border masturbating all over himself. Fucking Sconni's managed to elect the second coming of Joe Mccarthy and knocked Feingold out in the same year. In the immortal words of Moe Wanchuk, "That cunt is no good." Fuck you Walker.

Moff (#28)

Thanks, Abe — this was great. I went down the capitol on Saturday, and it was amazing. There was a great sense of both purpose and conviviality; multiple times, I heard protesters stop and thank Madison police officers for their work. Tea Party counterprotesters were occasionally scoffed at, mostly ignored, but absolutely welcomed. To all the right-wing mouthpieces slathering over the prospect of everything erupting into violence, it was a lovely fuck-you.

I don't know that the good guys have a shot in hell here, though. The unions and protesters can make all the reasonable arguments they want; Walker and the GOP aren't motivated by logic or principle here, no matter how often they cite budget concerns. This is about power, for them. Anyway, be interesting to see if he manages to piss off enough other Wisconsinites in the next few months to adversely affect his political career.

The one bright note: The protests have evidently been great for businesses in downtown Madison. So thanks for helping our economy, Scott! (To the rest of the state — the part where people actually voted for him — sorry he isn't doing more for you! It's because he doesn't actually care.)

Suzy Grindrod (#10,005)

Thanks for this analysis from a Madison, WI teacher. One more hateful part of this bill is language that excludes people from equal protection under affirmative action laws on the basis of sexual orientation. Sickening. It's hard to fathom so much greed, and disdain for fellow human beings. BTW, thanks (I think) for the image of a Koch brother hand up Walker's rectum. Made me laugh.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Thank you for bringing this up. In a state that already has a constitutional amendment banning marriage equality, this effort is no surprise. To be clear, Wisconsin's Fair Employment Law will protects against discrimination w/r/t sexual orientation and as far as I know, that will stand. What this bill does is roll back that requirement for state agencies. Specifically, the language w/r/t redefining hiring practices for orgs like the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and the Bradley Center is, "Except with respect to sexual orientation, the contractor further agrees to take affirmative action to ensure equal employment opportunities."

"Except for."

Abe Sauer (#148)

Also, if you loved Bernie Sanders' performance, by all means check out Rep Gordon Hintz's (D-Oshkosh) response to the attempted illegal vote on Friday.

"I found out from the radio. From Washington DC. What does that have to do with Wisconsin?!"

Kate Croy (#973)

This is truly excellent reporting, although what the fuck Tina Korbe's extracurriculars have to do with anything is beyond me. It was definitely enough to indicate when she graduated, Abe. You didn't need the beauty queen slam.

Abe Sauer (#148)

It was the "teen" modifier of that (very recent) beauty queen extracurricular that has to do with quite bit.

hockeymom (#143)

Have to agree with @katalist. Was loving this reporting till I got to that portion. I'll even take it another step…Zuckerberg and Gates were also quite young for their fields. Of course, they weren't female, beauty pageant winners so maybe they get a pass.

I have more of a problem with her political positions. Conservatives don't like women. The reporter may be too young to realize that she's working for people who will throw her under the bus the first chance they get.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Well, maybe it's lost in what looks like beauty pageant bashing, but it's got nothing to do with her really. The point is just how much a tool of the Koch infrastructure Walker is that he defends himself with the Heritage Found. without any question whatsoever into the source of the defense.

hockeymom (#143)

He IS a tool. I'm hoping that Wisconsin doesn't suffer from short-term memory loss the next time they go to the polls. The enthusiasm and passion on behalf of working people is something to see. I really hope these people don't go back to voting republican when they enter a voting booth again.

Moff (#28)

@hockeymom: Seriously. But I can see it happening: Walker and the GOP trash the state's finances. Angry voters elect a Democrat who doesn't magically fix everything immediately. A year later, the masses are chanting that they need a Republican who understands business back in office. Weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Jack Underwood (#6,304)

If this administrative rule change goes through, if I'm not mistaken, medicaid could be just the first state program scrapped, no? The Wisconsin State Budget Committee would become a slash-and-burn committee.

atlasfugged (#4,481)

Abe, your coverage of these protests (and north Midwest politics, in general) has been phenomenal. Frankly, you're one of the few writers I look forward to reading on The Awl.

After the 2010 elections, there seems to be a coordinated assault on Medicaid originating from Republican controlled statehouses throughout the country. This began in Arizona, where Jan Brewer has gone so far as to throw transplant patients off of Arizona's Medicaid rolls – this has resulted in the deaths of at least two Arizonans awaiting transplants. It's particularly unfortunate that this assault is being waged not only on Wisconsin's Medicaid program but also on Wisconsin's BadgerCare. Many health economists have held up BadgerCare (which provides coverage for those who do qualify for Medicaid, but cannot obtain or afford insurance in the private individual market) as a successful and efficient publicly-administered health-insurance program. Why Walker would want to dismantle that program is beyond me.

This attack on Medicaid seems to coincide with an unprecedented attack on public unions throughout the country, attacks that goes beyond the usual onerous demands by governors for increased pension contributions and reduced health benefits. It seems as though this nationwide effort by Republican governors to mortally wound their state's public unions was coordinated. It's telling perhaps that many of the officials and advisers surrounding these newly empowered Republican governors, like Walker's Denis Smith, do not come from the state government or other state institutions, but from conservative think tanks based in Washington DC. At the risk of sounding conspiratorial, many of these conservative think tanks happen to be funded by the Kochs and/or the Scaifes. It's as if the governors were required to make earnest efforts to dismantle Medicaid and other low-income programs and to undermine their respective public unions as a condition for sizable campaign contributions from organizations like Americans For Prosperity. I wonder if a correlation can be determined between the size of contributions from Koch-funded enterprises and the ferocity of a Republican governor's assault on the poor and public unions. (For example, Govs. Kaisch of Ohio and Rick Scott of Florida, like Walker, both received hefty support from AFP and AFP-like organizations. They too have several conservative think-tank alumni on their staffs).

Abe Sauer (#148)

Conspiratorial? I have been working, for some time now, on the assumptions that this is almost certainly the case.

Moff (#28)

Right? If there were a bunch of otherwise unconnected parties involved with no seeming common interest or convenient manner of collaboration, then it would be a conspiracy in the sense of "conspiracy theory."

But this is a bunch of people all involved in the upper echelons of a single political party. It's not even so much a conspiracy as it is a long-term strategy.

atlasfugged (#4,481)

@moff: What seems different this time is that this conspiracy or long-term strategy or whatever you want to call it has strongly manifesting itself at the state level. The legislation that these newly elected governors are pushing and much of the language they have been using to defend it are so similar that it all seems scripted by some kind of higher authority. I'm no historian, but this seemingly coordinated effort to change state laws and policies feels unprecedented. The focus of the Kochs and the Scaifes and their ilk has been historically focused on influencing the federal government. I'm not sure if they've ever made as concerted an effort to wrap their tentacles around state and local governments as they have since the 2010 elections.

I look forward to telling my children,as they look up in wonder from their Harperses, "I remember when Abe Sauer was only on the internet."

Scum (#1,847)

I hope its not too impolite to point out that a fair share of the bluster that news of the administrative rule change was lost in was yours. Going through your previous posts on Wisconsin I find plenty of excitable talk of war on unions, war on the poor, plutocracy and other such candy for the convinced, but no mention of the administrative rule change whatsoever.

In fact, any information about the bill is hard to come by in your posts. Hyperbole, vilification, glen beck style connect the dots speculation, all that is dished out quite generously. But if you want information about the bill and and sober analysis thereof you have to go to someone else. Someone like heritage's Tina Korbe perhaps.

You see, Koch brother's whore Tina Korbe, as she was possibly described in an early draft of Sauber's post, has written a post which is actually about the bill and policy dispute. It is not a piece of hammy melodrama which seeks to venerate and prance around within the political theatre of it all. It may well be shot through with distortions and idiocy (coming from the heritage foundation it probably is), but Sauber is not even interested in finding out or engaging with ideas of any description. Much better to enter her name in google and see if we can find anything to belittle or otherwise tarnish her with, with any luck she might turn out to be the Koch brother's niece or something. And, hey, even if all we can get is the fact that she's a young women who has participated in beauty pageants, so what? Most of the readers will be on such a rhetorical sugar rush from all the tearing middle class to shreds vampiric soaking up the blood crap that they will glide right by the transparent sexism of bringing up her entirely irrelevant beauty pageant exploits.

Abe Sauer (#148)

You're adorable.

Here is the whole bill if you want to read it.,_the_%22Scott_Walker_Budget_Repair_Bill%22_%282011%29

Look especially for sections with terminology "except with respect to sexual orientation…"

And section 112 section (e) 1. beginning "The department shall submit an amendment to the state Medical Assistance plan or request a waiver of federal laws related to medical assistance…"

Here's a link were you can look for yourself at the hundreds of thousands of people in the "private sector" who are also on BadgerCare, the extension that provides for those who are just "rich" enough to not qualify for Medicaid but yet not well paid enough to be able to afford exorbitant premiums but yet who the governor points to as those all public employees should be brought in line with. Hey, maybe YOUR employer is on there!

Knock yourself out, please.

lawyergay (#220)

Great write-up.

Meanwhile, over at the NYT, I have learned that boyfriends and/or husbands find fertile women "threatening."

jrmiss (#10,050)

Ahem, Junior Miss is a "scholarship program," not a beauty pageant.

Nahnsense (#7,172)

It's basically universally accepted in America that ALL employees/workers deserve certain inalienable rights that extend beyond those rights afforded to all of us as citizens: namely physical safety and protection from discrimination for constitutionally protected reasons. Most reasonable actors would argue that these rights are now protected for essentially all American workers by forces outside of collective bargaining agreements (OSHA, various civil and workplace discrimination laws). Why then should it be taken for granted that a certain group of workers, specifically those that are employees of an entity whose shareholders (all citizens) greatly outnumber them, have inalienable rights to a certain income level and working conditions that aren't guaranteed to all American workers?

Public sector unions are a cabal that have been able to artificially legislate and negotiate compensation (in all its forms) that makes them a separate class from all non-unionized employees. And it's not at the expense of some robber baron, it's at the cost of every non public sector union member in America.

If I'm in a union (or a direct benefit of their compensation advantage) OF COURSE I'm incensed that I'm getting my compensation reduced. Because they can't seriously argue serve that they are needed to protect the universal rights to safety and protection from discrimination, public sector unions must disguise that their only function is protection of compensation above market levels. Why is this right so holy? Why should anyone who doesn't directly benefit from one of these unions support their right to use non-competitive practices to fight for their higher income at our expense?

If their collectively bargained rights and their right to collectively bargain are so sacrosanct, then why don't all workers have these same rights?

If you find these rights so unassailable then at least be sincere enough to demand a socialist state.

Abe, the Koch brothers and their ilk are undoubtedly out to elevate the relative wealth distribution between capital holders and labor, but on the issue of public sector union busting their financial interests are aligned with those of the majority of Americans.

The specific provisions of this law not withstanding (and I'm sorry, I realize that's what this article is about; I'm more responding to the theme of your series), I don't see the call for universal American outrage at public sector union busting as one that should be taken up by most Americans at all.

Abe Sauer (#148)

"If their collectively bargained rights and their right to collectively bargain are so sacrosanct, then why don't all workers have these same rights?"

A lot more used to.

The unions in this case have agreed to bargain and make sacrifices. Why isn't that good enough? Why is it absolutely necessary to destroy them? And if the reason is ideological, why spare the collective bargaining rights of the police and firefighters unions?

I think I have a few times noted that the public service union is hardly an ideal situation, but what alternative do you suggest? Count on the good will of those in power to take care of the individual worker and the weak? Do you suggest we trust people like Walker and Ron Johnson and John Boehner will fight for the lowly workers? Remember, unions rose up in the first place exactly because that did not happen organically and without the power of the many singularly focused, they were helpless.

Nahnsense (#7,172)

Abe – Thanks for the thoughtful reponse and the forum. BTW I feel like Sarah Palin would point out how disconnected I am from real America when I laugh at the placard pictured in the accompanying picture (I mean they paid to have it printed! Was it just to save space?)

There is an extensive debate on which reasonable people would disagree about the purposes served by labor unions. If I were a welder on a skyscraper I too would want to know that the guy operating the crane above my head met the standards of the Union of Operating Engineers, but I don't see ANY purpose served by public sector unions other than the creation of a labor cabal to drive up prices. Public sector union members are a seperate class of people from non-union peers with similar skills/educations/experience/background. I don't think it's deniable that in almost all circumstances they have compensation (again, in all it's forms, not the least of which is job security) that exceeeds, and in some cases greatly exceeds, non-union employees.

I don't know what the balance of power between labor and capital should be. It's a fundamental debate (Marx would argue THE fundamental debate). The elimination of public sector unions(police and fire included) would obviously tilt the scales towards capital (and not insignificantly in this case capital that is held by all Americans). You might argue that our government would only use the savings to further enhance the rich (and you may be right!), but isn't that a failure of our system (or our voters)that should be addressed in a more equitable way?

You ask that I offer an alternative to public sector unions, and imply that the private sector (represented, accurately I might add, by Wal-Mart)has failed the non-unionized workers of America. I hold Wal-Mart up as an example of a working alternative and find it disingenous to hang them on the cross of our broken healthcare system. A transformation and reset of our values in that arena are where I think a universal call to arms is truely deserved.

prowoodworker40 (#10,056)

Abe, I am a long time self- employed contractor in south central Wisconsin..Not only do I work harder, and longer hours for my money than these public sector primadonna's.I also do it without the safety net of collective bargaining.I am offended by your choice of title for this particular act of disparaging neo-journalism. These are not Wisconsin's poor. Not even close. Every public sector employee including teachers are blessed to have wage packages that far exceed that of their private sector compatriots. So not only are they in the upper 50% of median wage earners in this state, they also have the best job security around in a troubled market. So from outside the loop in Madison- The working class is saying, shut up and sit down,get back to work and dig in for the long haul of fiscally responsible government. I know that doesn't bode well with the self entitled, but frankly, the whine is becoming deafening.

Abe Sauer (#148)

Let me begin by saying you won't find a more sympathetic person than me to the struggle of genuinely middle class people as they try to make ends meet. And though I question your claim of working "harder, and longer hours" than many, many public school teachers, I have no doubt you work longer and harder than many of them.

No, they are not Wisconsin's poor. But that's part of the point. They WILL BE. As a middle class worker I'm sure you already understand the increased difficulty in making ends meet. And remember, while teachers do have job security in bad times, they do not benefit with large raises in good times. That is one of the gambles of becoming a public worker.

In argument and argument for Walker's union busting measures, the private workers of the middle class (like you) have been strategically pitted against the public middle class workers (like teachers and firemen and snowplow drivers and prison guards) to tear each other apart. The propaganda that a government backed by extreme wealth is using to act to bring everyone down to the same crappy level is insane. Government should not be acting to drag them down, it should be acting to bring you up.

Look at these figures and really tell me that you think middle class public workers, of any stripe, are the problem

gonzomatic (#10,071)

Its about time greedy unions are being busted up. One by one, they bankrupted american industries, from steel to garment workers, to auto workers. Somehow they think these "vampiric money class" is actually a golden goose that has infinite golden eggs, so they slaughtered it to get the eggs. Good riddance. And the poor? Gimme a break, 90% of them are just plain old lazy people. Let Darwin work. These are people like the characters in the movie "Precious", bunch of bums that expect others to work hard so their taxes can feed their lazy a$$es. Go to hell, WE THE WORKING CLASS ARE TIRED OF THESE BULL$SH1T ENTITLEMENTS. GO WALKER!!!

Limey (#10,073)

Informative article…..thank you Abe.

I loved the last sentence, that just about says it all.Amazing so many mindless idiots can be so easily manipulated by the powerful and unscrupulous.

question (#10,076)

Terrific article. In addition to the sneaky administrative change you were savvy enough to catch, there's at least one other allowing him to sell Wisconsin's power plants, according to

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