Day: February 19, 2011

12 Things You Need to Know About the Uprising in Wisconsin

AlterNet

What’s happening in Wisconsin is not complicated. At the beginning of this year, the state was on course to end 2011 with a budget surplus of $120 million. As Ezra Klein explained, newly elected GOP Governor Scott Walker then ” signed two business tax breaks and a conservative health-care policy experiment that lowers overall tax revenues (among other things). The new legislation was not offset, and it turned a surplus into a deficit.”

Walker then used the deficit he’d created as the justification for assaulting his state’s public employees. He used a law cooked up by a right-wing advocacy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC likes to fly beneath the radar, but I described the organization in a 2005 article as “the connective tissue that links state legislators with right-wing think tanks, leading anti-tax activists and corporate money.” Similar laws are on the table in Ohio and Indiana.

Walker’s bill would strip public employees of the right to bargain collectively for anything but higher pay (and would cap the amount of wage hikes they might end up gaining in negotiations). His intentions are clear — before assuming office, Walker threatened to decertify the state’s employees’ unions (until he discovered that the governor doesn’t have that power).

But he’s spinning the measure as something else — a bitter pill state workers must swallow in order to save Wisconsin’s government. So the first things you need to know are:

1. Wisconsin’s public workers  have already “made sacrifices to help balance the budget, through 16 unpaid furlough days and no pay increases the past two years,” according to the Associated Press. The unions know their members are going to have to make concessions on benefits, but they rightly see the assault on their fundamental right to negotiate as an act of war. 

2. There are already 13 states that restrict public workers’ bargaining rights and it hasn’t helped their bottom lines. As Ed Kilgore notes,  “eight non-collective-bargaining states face larger budget shortfalls than either Wisconsin or Ohio,” and ” three of the 13 non-collective bargaining states are among the eleven states facing budget shortfalls at or above 20%.” 

3. This isn’t just about public employees. What even a majority of the protesters don’t know is that Walker’s law would also place all of the state’s Medicaid funding in the hands of the governor.  State senator Jon Erpenbach, D-Middleton — one of the Dem law-makers who fled the state to block a vote on the bill — told local media that this amounted to “substantial Medicaid changes” that put “the governor, all of a sudden… in charge of Medicaid, which is SeniorCare, which is BadgerCare …and he has never once said what he intends to do” with those programs. But the provision led journalist Suzie Madrak to conclude that “the end game for all this is to defund state Medicaid programs and make it impossible to serve as part of the new health care safety net.”

4. Health-care costs, rather than workers’ greed, are what has driven up the price of employees’ benefits. But generally speaking, those public sector health-care costs have grown at a slower clip than in the private sector.

5. Public employees’ pensions account for just 6 percent of state budgets. 

This has nothing to do with the state’s fiscal picture. Aside from potentially undermining Wisconsin’s public health-care system, it’s really about destroying the last bastion of unionism in the American economy: public employees. As Addie Stan wrote on AlterNet’s front page: 

Walker is carrying out the wishes of his corporate master, David Koch, who calls the tune these days for Wisconsin Republicans. Walker is just one among many Wisconsin Republicans supported by Koch Industries — run by David Koch and his brother, Charles — and Americans For Prosperity, the astroturf group founded and funded by David Koch. The Koch brothers are hell-bent on destroying the labor movement once and for all. 

There’s more…

 

Koch Industries Slashed WI Jobs, Helped Elect Scott Walker, Now Orchestrating Pro-Walker Protest

Talk about corporate malfeasance, Koch Industries has bought not only Wisconsin Republicans but the entire GOP in the halls of Congress in DC .

These people are unscrupulous, feckless bastards for what they have done and will continue to do to our democracy unless legislators in both houses rescind the SCOTUS ruling on Citizens United.

Think Progress

Wisconsin’s newly elected Republican Gov. Scott Walker is facing a growing backlash over his attempt to cut pay and eliminate collective bargaining rights for public employees in his state. Although Walker is claiming his power grab is an attempt to close a budget gap, the budget “crisis” was engineered by Walker as soon as he got into office. As Brian Beutler reported, half of the budget shortfall comes from Walker’s own tax cuts for businesses and other business giveaways enacted in January.

A number of the big business interests standing with Walker are beneficiaries of his administration’s tax giveaways. But the greatest ally to Walker is the dirty energy company Koch Industries. In response to the growing protests in Madison, Koch fronts are busing in Tea Party protesters to support Walker and his union-busting campaign. Last night, MSNBC’s Ed Schultz reported on the involvement of Club for Growth and the Koch-financed Americans for Prosperity in the pro-Walker protest scheduled tomorrow.

Watch it:

Koch Industries is a major player in Wisconsin: Koch owns a coal company subsidiary with facilities in Green Bay, Manitowoc, Ashland and Sheboygan; six timber plants throughout the state; and a large network of pipelines in Wisconsin. While Koch controls much of the infrastructure in the state, they have laid off workers to boost profits. At a time when Koch Industries owners David and Charles Koch awarded themselves an extra $11 billion of income from the company, Koch slashed jobs at their Green Bay plant:

Officials at Georgia-Pacific said the company is laying off 158 workers at its Day Street plant because out-of-date equipment at the facility is being replaced with newer, more-efficient equipment. The company said much of the new, papermaking equipment will be automated. […] Malach tells FOX 11 that the layoffs are not because of a drop in demand. In fact, Malach said demand is high for the bath tissue and napkins manufactured at the plant.

Koch Industries was one of the biggest contributors to Walker’s gubernatorial campaign, funneling $43,000 over the course of last year. In return, Koch front groups are closely guiding the Walker agenda. The American Legislative Exchange Council, another Koch-funded group, advised Walker and the GOP legislature on its anti-labor legislation and its first corporate tax cuts.   More…

 

Sarah Palin Addresses Wisconsin Protesters: You Must Be ‘Willing To Sacrifice’

I wonder what Mrs. Palin knows about “sacrifice”?

Huffington Post

Sarah Palin says union members protesting Wisconsin Republicans’ plan to help balance the state’s budget by cutting collective bargaining rights are taking up “the wrong fight at the wrong time.”

Palin weighed in on the debate in a Friday night posting on her Facebook page but didn’t indicate whether she would join weekend conservative counter-protests organized by groups including the Tea Party Patriots and Americans for Prosperity.

In the posting addressed to “union brothers and sisters,” Palin says Wisconsin taxpayers shouldn’t be asked to pay for benefits “that are not sustainable.” She says “real solidarity means everyone being willing to sacrifice.”

New Republican Gov. Scott Walker insists the concessions he’s seeking from public workers are necessary to deal with Wisconsin’s projected $3.6 billion budget shortfall and to avoid layoffs.

West Wing Week: 2/18/11 or “Goodbye, Gibbs”

The White House

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This week, President Obama released his federal budget, discussing the need to take responsibility for our deficits while investing in education, to prepare our children to be competitive in the global economy and win the future. He also responded to the situation in Egypt, chatted with some Boy Scouts, and honored some of our greatest Americans.

Find out more about the topics covered in this West Wing Week

Friday, February 11, 2011:

Monday, February 14, 2011:

Tuesday, February 15, 2011:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011:

Arun Chaudhary is the official White House videographer

Sarah Palin: Bristol Googled Information On The Economy For Me

Sarah Palin finally answered questions from mainstream reporters on Thursday at a Long Island, NY. country club.   She even appeared to be “forthcoming” in her answers…

Huffington Post

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin reportedly tasked her oldest daughter, Bristol, with taking to Google to mine a little data on the economy in preparation for her appearance Thursday in Long Island, New York.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Palin was accompanied by her daughter, Bristol, whom she described as her “entourage.” She said she had asked Bristol, in their hotel room Wednesday night, to Google information about the economy in preparation for the appearance in a country club ballroom.

In a rare event in which she took questions from attendees, Palin also addressed her controversial use of “death panels” during the fiery health care debate in 2009 and speculation that she’s gearing up for a White House run in 2012.

She also took the opportunity to mock First Lady Michelle Obama for her recently announced initiative to encourage childhood breastfeeding.

House Votes To Defund Health Reform, Planned Parenthood.. Bans EPA From Regulating Greenhouse Gases

It’s doubtful that any of the above initiatives will pass the Democratic majority in the Senate.  However, the looming question remains for the Republican majority on the House side:  Where are the jobs?

Huffington Post

House Republicans voted on Friday to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood, cutting money for contraceptives, HIV tests, cancer screenings and reproductive health services as part of an attempt to weaken the abortion provider. Planned Parenthood does not currently spend federal money on abortion services.

The vote, which passed, 240 to 185, came after an emotional, late-night speech by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who revealed on the House floor that she had had an abortion. Speier criticized Republicans for vilifying Planned Parenthood and abortion-rights supporters.

“There is a vendetta against Planned Parenthood, and it was played out in this room tonight,” she said on the House floor. “Planned Parenthood has a right to operate. Planned Parenthood has a right to provide family planning services. Planned parenthood has a right to perform abortions. Last time you checked, abortions were legal in this country.”

Republicans argued that the amendment, which was introduced by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), was necessary to prevent taxpayer money from funding abortions at Planned Parenthood. But the organization is already prohibited from using the money it receives under Title X, which funds reproductive health services, to perform abortions.

Planned Parenthood was a major recipient of Title X funding last year, when the organization estimated it received a quarter of the $317 million appropriated for Title X. The the organization also performs one-quarter of reported abortions in the United States last year, some of which Pence claims were funded through non-Title X funding.

“Nobody is saying Planned Parenthood can’t be the leading advocate of abortion on demand, but why do I have to pay for it?” Pence said on Thursday, adding that he hopes Roe v Wade is eventually overturned.   Continue reading here…

Politico’s – The Week In One Liners

 

The week’s top ten quotes in American politics: 

“Take them back. We don’t want them.” — Gov. Chris Christie, telling New York to claim ownership of the cast of MTV’s “Jersey Shore.” 

“Being in the minority sucks.” — Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel, being blunt with reporters. 

“I don’t have to make calls for Rahm Emanuel. He seems to be doing just fine on his own.” — President Barack Obama, answering a question about former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel’s mayoral bid in Chicago. 

“You know, I don’t really know that much about Lady Gaga. I hate to say it.” — Rep. Michele Bachmann, admitting that she’s not a “little monster.” 

“You could be speaker of the House!” — Former first lady Barbara Bush, teasing her husband, George H.W. Bush, as he cried during a “Today” show interview. 

“John Boehner is really bad at this job.” — MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, not surprising viewers with an assessment of the speaker. 

“Congrats to Jay Carney for finishing his first briefing. I wish him well … sort of.” —Former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, tweeting some “support” to the incoming spokesman. 

“We hired a chief of staff because Todd is getting tired of doing it for me.” —Sarah Palin, explaining some of her recent staff shuffling. 

“It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.” —Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, describing union protests taking place in his home state. 

“If I want to hear about abortion from an adolescent or health issues, I’ll turn on Glenn Beck.” – “The View” co-host Joy Behar, reacting to Justin Bieber’s recent comments on the U.S. health care system and abortion.