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I have this tl;dr thing I've been drafting about our protests for two weeks now. I don't know if it'll ever be finished (what's the point in tl;dr?) but I need to put a shorter thing out there in the meantime.

If you asked me how I felt about this mess I wouldn't be able to do it in a hundred words or less. My mind and heart are spinning on so many levels right now.

  1. On a shallow level: This is the most entertaining thing that has happened in my town, like, ever. It is like the Real World. Every day some politician pulls some outrageous stunt that gets everybody's attention and we can't talk about anything else. Every day someone capitalizes on all this excitement for profit in some breathtakingly obvious way. Today I ordered a T-shirt from the official restaurant of the revolution -- "Ian's Pizza: This is what democracy tastes like."
  2. On a deeper level: I'm worried by these shenanigans because when the dust settles, I still have to live here. I supported my Senator's exit (and told him so) because I think it did something important -- it gave us time. Three weeks of daylight have given us all a pretty good idea what's in the bill and what its effects might be. Three weeks convinces me that union busting is not, by and large, something this swing state favors. But life goes on and politics goes on and I'm really concerned that the atmosphere right now is so hostile that the minority party can no longer serve effectively as the loyal opposition. Until the balance of power in our Capitol changes, they are all lame ducks.
  3. On an intellectual level: I am totally bowled over by all the stuff that this has taught me about Wisconsin history, state politics, and activism. Yeah, there are some eyeroll-inspiring signs out there, with bad grammar or bad politics or just bad jokes; but the deeper lesson of the protests is that it IS possible to dissent with humor, without bitterness; and it IS possible, with cleverness and with patience, to change the story.
  4. On another intellectual level, where I am both amused and annoyed: I actually think there is probably a decent, grownup conversation we could be having about whether public employees ought to have the right to unionize. It's an open question in my mind. But that's not the conversation any leader in our state has tried to have -- and that's the point, to me. I am convinced that our Governor has made these moves not to protect his citizens (since when are no-bid contracts to sell state resources in the best interests of any state? do we even need to have that conversation?) but to advance himself. And here's an heuristic for you: when someone makes an aggressive push to enact an unpopular law that removes established rights and reduces middle-class income in a recession without having a grownup conversation about why, that is a law we should not have, and that is a person who should not lead.
  5. On a personal level: I've got a horse in this race. Although very little in my own life will change once this bill becomes law, the environment of my employment may change considerably, and not in a way that serves my interests. I'm also seriously worried about the many and varied economic impacts that the repair bill and the budget both will have on my town's economy. These cuts are synergistic in a way that has me wondering whether buying property in this state was a mistake. And maybe that's something my leaders should hear, too.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-03-11 12:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] corpsefairy.livejournal.com
Why do you think public employees might not have the right to unionize? What's different about them?

I'm having a hard time thinking of any set of employees who shouldn't be able to unionize, with the exception of elected individuals.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-03-11 03:29 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eirias.livejournal.com
The argument I've heard is that public employees are different from private employees because they elect their bosses; whereas for private employees, unions are the only effective way to have a voice in employment conditions, unionized public employees have two. Some pundits claim this leads to screwy incentives -- the unions go to the bargaining table with the additional power that their membership is a significant voting bloc and can exert pressure that will cost politicians their jobs, which gives the politicians no incentive not to raise wages.

I think the argument is interesting and worth some air time, but I don't think it's dispositive. I think that even without unions that have bargaining power, public employees have some ability to band together as a voting bloc and swap out their bosses for ones that are more willing to grant higher pay, and you can still wind up with incentives that non-public-employee taxpayers may not love. The union bankroll makes a huge difference to the likelihood of success, of course -- but that doesn't win the argument for the opposing team, it just highlights the tensions inherent in where our democratic process gets its dollars.

(I also think the argument is a little bit counterfactual in that I really don't know of any public employee unions that get everything they want. My father-in-law is a leftist by nature and a high-up manager by trade and finds himself negotiating with the unions at his institution. He does try to offer them what he feels are fair deals, but they are not exactly bedfellows; a few years ago negotiations got so rough there was kind of a hate campaign waged against him. But I admit that's anecdotal and I don't have any data on how public vs. private union negotiations usually turn out.)

But really, the point is, I could have been much happier with this policy shift given the chance to discuss it like an adult. I can't imagine trusting this man now, on anything.

(no subject)

Date: 2011-03-14 03:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mokatz.livejournal.com
I listened to NPR last week and they gave some airtime to a right wing-ish professor out of NYU or somesuch.

He did give some specious arguments; like since the tax payers pay public workers' salaries, union dues are mandatory, and union support goes overwhelmingly to the Democratic party, the taxpayers are supporting the Democratic party, ZOMG! :P

But one that did make some sense (and is a corollary to the one you gave) is that in an ideal system, the voters elect the policy makers who make the policy for the bureaucracy to carry out. If there are public unions, then there is an unelected 3rd voice in the process of creating policy, the unions. Unions lobby for the good of the workers, not the public. Those thing usually coincide (class size, firefighting equipment) but not necessarily always.


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