Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 17, 2011

ON WISCONSIN.... Nearly eight years ago, Republicans in the Texas legislature, at the behest of Tom DeLay, tried to force through a re-redistricting scheme. Texas Democrats didn't have the votes to stop, but they had a procedural card to play -- they could not show up, deny the GOP a quorum, and prevent the bill from passing. So Dems packed up and left the state for a while.*

We're seeing something similar play out in the Badger State today.

A Wisconsin state senator says the 14 Democratic lawmakers who are boycotting a vote on a controversial anti-union bill have left the state.

Sen. Jon Erpenbach says the group wants to force negotiations over the Republican-backed bill, which would strip most public employees of their collective-bargaining rights.

The legislature needs a quorum to conduct business, and unless one of the Dems is in the chamber, there's no quorum.

The state's right-wing governor, Scott Walker (R), could in theory send the police to retrieve the Democrats and bring them to the state capitol, but apparently, the Dem lawmakers have left Wisconsin altogether -- knowing the state police wouldn't have any jurisdiction outside state lines.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of protestors demonstrated in Madison again today, with the backing of state and national Democrats. Fox News, true to form, labeled the protests a "hate rally."

And while we're on the subject, let's also note that the rationales behind the Wisconsin GOP's union-busting efforts aren't even close to being accurate:

Wisconsin's new Republican governor has framed his assault on public worker's collective bargaining rights as a needed measure of fiscal austerity during tough times.

The reality is radically different. Unlike true austerity measures -- service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money -- rolling back worker's bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker's doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately.

Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state's fiscal bureau -- the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office -- concluded that Wisconsin isn't even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.

* Postscript: In case you're curious, Texas Dems, who mainly fled to Oklahoma and New Mexico, held out for a long while, but eventually had to go home. The re-redistricting scheme passed; five additional U.S. House Republican districts were created; and the financing for the whole scheme led to felony convictions for Tom DeLay.

Steve Benen 3:20 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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Comments

"...and the financing for the whole scheme led to felony convictions for Tom DeLay."

Then it was worth it.

Posted by: Vandal on February 17, 2011 at 3:32 PM | PERMALINK

Hate rally? Gota love Fox. Republican propaganda all day, all night.

Earlier Paul Ryan called the protest a riot. He said Egypt has moved to Madison, apparently forgetting that the Egyptian protests were mostly peaceful, and the Egyptian people won.

Posted by: Ron Byers on February 17, 2011 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

I didn't know that the unrest overseas was washing onto our shores.

Will Wisconsin now become the spark that sets off a fire across the country?

It's all social media's fault.

Stay tuned.

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on February 17, 2011 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

if by calling the demonstrations Cairo like - they mean the public is speaking out against tyrants then SO BE IT.

We need more people out of the street demonstrating across the country against these rightwinger attacks.

Posted by: Tang on February 17, 2011 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

Austin and Madison are remarkably similar cities in many respects. I lived in Austin when the lege's Ds went into exile, and the difference this time--and what a difference it is!--is the thousands of protesters. It would have been appropriate in the Texas situation too; Austinites evidently failed to appreciate the extent to which the redistricting scheme would deliberately dilute the power of the liberal electorate in the capital city. But this time there's a more visceral component, as public-sector employees are concerned about keeping their families fed. Pharaoh Walker is already backing down a little, but I don't know that there will be much forgiveness available there in the long run, even if they call off the whole scheme.

Posted by: paradoxosalpha on February 17, 2011 at 3:40 PM | PERMALINK

You know what will happen when Anderson Cooper attends...

Posted by: Vokoban on February 17, 2011 at 3:41 PM | PERMALINK

[Paul Ryan] said Egypt has moved to Madison, apparently forgetting that the Egyptian protests were mostly peaceful, and the Egyptian people won.

And also they were protesting tyranny.

I'm comfortable with his analogy.

Posted by: doubtful on February 17, 2011 at 3:44 PM | PERMALINK

A group of Texas Dems, known as the Killer Bees, had done this sort of thing in 1979, too:

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,946253,00.html

Posted by: John B. on February 17, 2011 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

After controlling for wages, education, etc. WI public workers earn 4.8% less than private employees.

http://epi.3cdn.net/9e237c5609..

Posted by: jjm on February 17, 2011 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

I thought of Cairo too when hearing about Madison. Has any of the librul mainstream noticed yet?

Posted by: jrosen on February 17, 2011 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

For the lawyers.
What is the legal basis for the executive to abduct/kidnap/arrest members of the legislature?

Posted by: foghorn on February 17, 2011 at 3:57 PM | PERMALINK

That's my question too. How could the state police forceably bring these legislators to the capitol without an arrest warrant based on probable cause. We're not living in Stalin's Russia (are we?).

Posted by: Virginia on February 17, 2011 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

Article: "The state's right-wing governor, Scott Walker (R), could in theory send the police to retrieve the Democrats and bring them to the state capitol, but apparently, the Dem lawmakers have left Wisconsin altogether -- knowing the state police wouldn't have any jurisdiction outside state lines."

Walker sounds certifiable. Perhaps when he runs again the voters will demonstrate some common sense.

Posted by: max on February 17, 2011 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

jjm, not only do WI state workers make 4.8% less in wages, they pay 7% more for healthcare. That's almost 12% in total.

Posted by: MsJoanne on February 17, 2011 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

So what is happening to all the Wisconsin school children while all those teachers are rallying and protesting?

Forgive me if I lose a little sympathy for those teachers.

Posted by: Schlocky Balboa on February 17, 2011 at 4:19 PM | PERMALINK

Schlocky, go suck your master's Koch.

Posted by: Steve LaBonne on February 17, 2011 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

More On Texas

Yeah, the Delay-engineered Texas redistricting was what brought us Louie Gohmert, better known as "the Aggie joke." It was a nice touch that, as soon as Texas gained several new Republican representatives, the Republicans went into the minority.

Posted by: zandru on February 17, 2011 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

What is it with the Republicans and the 19th century? First Jan Brewer, the Gov of AZ, is trying to cut 280,000 people from Medicaid and asks permission from HHS to do it, and HHS says she did not need permission (http://twitgoo.com/1z9jls a cartoon). Now Wisconsin is trying to wipe our worker rights. These guys are right out of Thomas Nast cartoons from the 19th century.

Somebody needs to tell these guys that we outgrew the 19th century, just like I outgrew the pants I wore as a kid so I don't wear them any more, because they are too constraining and painful. So it is with the philosophy the pre-progressive, anti-federalist movement AKA the tea party is promoting. America has outgrown it, because we do not want the violence, poverty, greed, and ethics associated with that most complex century.

Posted by: KurtRex1453 on February 17, 2011 at 4:51 PM | PERMALINK

What is really remarkable to me is how little coverage this story is getting. This is a major battle for labor, with consequences that are potentially epochal, but it's being treated as a minor story, not just in the New York Times and the Washington Post, but also in the partisan liberal magazines.

To wit: New Republic doesn't have any coverage of the story, and Mother Jones -- named for a labor leader, for Chrissakes -- is leading with a story on the "vodka butt shot contractor." It's a sad commentary on the increasingly-marginal position of the labor movement on the progressive side of the political spectrum these days.

Posted by: Chris Dominguez on February 17, 2011 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK
For the lawyers. What is the legal basis for the executive to abduct/kidnap/arrest members of the legislature?

In the federal system, each house has the power to compel attendance of members (Art. I, Sec. 5). Most States have similar provisions. My assumption is that the way this would work wouldn't be the governor actually giving an order, by the Republican leadership in the legislature directing the Sergeant-at-Arms of each house of the legislature who would then seek the assistance of the executive branch incl. the State police, who would then go and attempt to round up the wayward legislators to deliver them to the Capitol.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 17, 2011 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

So what is happening to all the Wisconsin school children while all those teachers are rallying and protesting? -Fascist McCommieBastard

Many of them are protesting right beside their teachers. The rest are learning an important lesson about electoral consequences and the power of free speech in a free society.

Posted by: doubtful on February 17, 2011 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

...... So what is happening to all the Wisconsin school children while all those teachers are rallying and protesting? ......

Oh, think of the children! Until there ARE NO MORE TEACHERS.

Yeah, what doubtful said.

Posted by: MsJoanne on February 17, 2011 at 5:30 PM | PERMALINK

Thanks, Benen for the background. So, this action by Wisconsin's governor is based on nothing more than a BIG LIE by the governor, so his own actions INCREASED THE DEFICIT OF HIS STATE, so this is truly nothing more than a rabid right-wing anti-union, anti-middle-class power grab. (Not that I was ever really convinced it was anything but.)

Stay strong, Wisconsin Democrats.

Posted by: June on February 17, 2011 at 5:33 PM | PERMALINK

Thank you,cmdicely. Very clear explanation.

Posted by: foghorn on February 17, 2011 at 5:37 PM | PERMALINK

I think you can safely bet that when the teachers do go back to work that the social studies lessons about Fighting Bob LaFollette are amped WAY up.

Go Badgers!

Posted by: Seould on February 17, 2011 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

Nice to know there are Democrats with a spine somewhere. Why aren't the industrial unions like the Teamsters and the UAW rallying to support the Wisconsin public employees? Why don't they just shut the whole state down. That's what it's going to take.

This extreme anti-labor tactic in Wisconsin is the nose of the camel. If it succeeds the dominoes are going to start falling, but maybe that's what it's going to take to people into the streets. Can you imagine what would happen in France or Germany if some moron politician tried to get rid of unions?

Posted by: rrk1 on February 17, 2011 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

So what is happening to all the Wisconsin school children while all those teachers are rallying and protesting?

Posted by: Schlocky Balboa on February 17, 2011 at 4:19 PM

First off, it's not all of Wisconsin, just Madison. But where the schools are closed, many of the children are demonstrating alongside their parents. There have been a couple of studies done recently about children as young as 5 being adversely affected (unable to concentrate at school, for example) by worries about their parents losing jobs, being foreclosed against, etc. Even small children know that, if their parents get screwed, they'll get screwed too. Being able to participate in something as momentous as this is going to be good for them. And, as Doubtful said above, a lesson in civics won't come amiss, either.

Posted by: exlibra on February 17, 2011 at 6:30 PM | PERMALINK

Is al-Jazeera English covering the insurrection in Madison?

Posted by: Seould on February 17, 2011 at 7:00 PM | PERMALINK

HATE RALLY???

I was there for a couple hours this afternoon with my sons (mom was there all day.) It was a very large gathering-- the Capitol Police estimated 25,000-- but very orderly. People were polite: there was no cursing, no banging on doors or windows, no throwing things (it was mostly teachers, students and their families, after all!) It did occasionally get loud. The Capitol in Madison is all stone, inside and out, so even when a small group of students is there on a field trip, sound carries. But with the estimated 5000, it was loud. There were chants ("kill the bill," "recall Scott Walker") the singing of the National Anthem, banging on drums. I heard nine arrests were made. Someone let go a big bouquet of red balloons, so those are bumping around up against the top of the rotunda.

I am so pleased that our Democratic Senators had the stones to go and hide so that a quorum can't be had. A story floating around the Capitol when I was there (don't know about veracity but it does have the ring of truth) is that when the governator ordered the State Patrol (our version of the state highway police) to go out and find them, they refused. I hope it's true.

Posted by: wihntr on February 17, 2011 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

Just to answer a question above:

There are other non-affected unions supporting us. The firefighters, who are exempted from the governor's nonsense, marched all day and were cheered like the Packers! There were also members of various other unions there: Teamsters, painters, ironworkers, etc. And they too were cheered like heroes as they marched.

Posted by: wihntr on February 17, 2011 at 7:36 PM | PERMALINK

Perhaps, just perhaps, the Republican/Teabaggers have finally stepped over that line...

Posted by: Doug on February 17, 2011 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

Texas Dems, who mainly fled to Oklahoma and New Mexico, held out for a long while, but eventually had to go home.

Not exactly. One of their members betrayed the group and broke the deadlock. IIRC he was a Democrat from Houston. I hope that he is now in private life.

Posted by: Brenda Helverson on February 17, 2011 at 7:59 PM | PERMALINK

Also recall Delay commandeered DHS assets to conduct an aerial search for the TX Dems.

Posted by: Sirius...TheStarDog on February 17, 2011 at 10:17 PM | PERMALINK

There are other non-affected unions supporting us. The firefighters, who are exempted from the governor's nonsense, marched all day and were cheered like the Packers! There were also members of various other unions there: Teamsters, painters, ironworkers, etc. And they too were cheered like heroes as they marched.
Posted by: wihntr on February 17, 2011 at 7:36 PM

That's good to hear; thanks for reporting (also earlier, about the ad the police took out). Here's the song they ought to sing to Walker:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SMwZsFKIXa8

Posted by: exlibra on February 17, 2011 at 10:39 PM | PERMALINK

Gov. Walker is the Mubarak of Madison.

Posted by: Bob on February 18, 2011 at 1:03 AM | PERMALINK

Every union in this country should send at least one person to Madison to stand with their fellow
union members.

Posted by: dianne on February 18, 2011 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

I am a grandmother and I am concerned about the future for my grandchildren. There is a concerted effort by Corporate America to turn the everyday citizen into impovished slave labor. The worst thing that ever happened to our nation was the elimination of the free press. Someone above questioned why this situation is not getting any coverage. The reason is that the press, is owned by Corporate America and they determine what we will hear. I think we as American Labor are at a tipping point. We either make it in Wisconsin or it is all over. I further question where the National AFL/CIO is and the Teamsters and the other labor organizations are. JMHO

Posted by: BarbaraR on February 19, 2011 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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