There will be peace in the Valley. But anger in Wisconsin

Brian S. Hall:

It is no coincidence that the night President Obama sat down for a lovely dinner with a dozen of America’s richest executives in Silicon Valley this week, that protests in Wisconsin over budget cuts and union worker rights reached a fever pitch. Though the President paid lip service to the protesters, a well-heeled, well-funded voting bloc he will no doubt rely on heavily for the 2012 presidential race, he understood what mattered most — to him and America.

  • Technology
  • Innovation
  • Globalization
  • Education — as offered by highly competitive colleges and universities that have little to no monopoly power
  • Entrepreneurialism – unshackled from government regulations, free from unionized labor and unfettered by legacy depictions of work and economy and business

Politics may force President Obama to become more actively, more visibly involved in the events of Wisconsin, where public worker unions, essentially America’s last remaining unions, fight for de facto guarantees of job security, lifetime healthcare, lifetime benefits, sanctioned limits on hours worked and on responsibilities blurred. But the President is acutely aware that, as protests in Egypt offered a glimpse into the future, protests in Madison, Wisconsinwere a reminder of America’s past.
This is Tea Party Redux. The Union Strikes Back. Yet just as with the angry tea party protests from two years ago, the song remains the same. Large swaths of Americans, having been party to an unspoken agreement that they would have a guaranteed middle class life, filled with highly targeted government benefits — which they repeatedy insisted they “earned” and which they knew could not survive should they be spread throughout the wider population — so too is it with the government worker unions. Unlike the entirety of the US population, they have a unique sanctuary within the American economy. Just like those in the Tea Party voiced their angry over policies that diminished their unique standing, in America and the world, so too do the protests in Wisconsin reflect anger and fear over exactly the same concerns. Both groups, of course, argued, believed perhaps, that what was good for them was good for workers, good for the middle class, good for America.

4 thoughts on “There will be peace in the Valley. But anger in Wisconsin”

  1. This is a fight over lesser and lesser piece of the pie. In previous years, the Tea Party’ers would be protesting that they too should have similar rights as government workers.
    But the economic policies, starting most notably in the Reagan administration, whose result if not the goal, was to create the US in the image of a third world country with the billionaire CEOs controlling society, government, and those who actually do the work.
    The success of Reagan and Bush I in marginalizing and demonizing labor allowed them with little opposition to negotiate and sign the NAFTA treaty in December of 1992, and have it ratified in 1993 by Congress and signed into law by Clinton. It could only be done because labor, having been previously the only non-government institution that had the clout to prevent the decimation of the middle class had been neutralized, demonized and eliminated.
    We’ve seen the inevitable results. Stock market way up, wages way down. Sky-rocketing individual debt, sky-rocketing debt and collapse and bailout of the investor class, for whom NAFTA was designed to place in control of the US and world economies.
    Could we so soon forget that liberal labor and those who eventually became the conservative Tea Party’ers were vehemently opposed to the bank bailouts? 70% of Americans were opposed, and yet the bailout went through. That is, the massive protests against the bailout were ignored because there was not and is not a middle class based institution that could force the government to do otherwise.
    Clearly Americans don’t count because they can so easily be manipulated into fighting over truly marginal issues.
    The brilliance of the ruling CEOs and their Republican allies in being able to rally workers (and small businesses) to oppose their own interests cannot be denied.
    The cry from the Tea Party’ers that they’re just glad to have jobs, rather than rallying to be paid a living wage and not be one paycheck away from destitution is a monument to that brilliance.
    Labor unions and leaders have for years morphed into only caring about wages, benefits and working conditions, just because the laws limit negotiations with employers to those topics. Very short sighted.
    The knowledge of their importance of being a non-government institution that could help control and influence government on substantive and policy issues, as they were in the 60’s, and to act as a counter-weight when necessary to other non-govenment institutions (think big business and financial industries) was been lost, and we will continue to pay dearly for this.
    Brian Hall is right. The unions in Wisconsin are fighting to preserve the past — because the future couldn’t be any bleaker.

  2. Things are certainly changing, but it is not just the (some) Republicans who are in league with big business (and big labor/big government), dems, including current Senator Kohl and former Senator Feingold, voted for decidedly pro (big) business tax policy, such as a 5.25% offshore deal:
    More here:
    Finally, Matt Taibbi’s latest is well worth reading:
    Better tax policy, would, IMHO, simplify taxes all around so everyone plays the same game, not just those who can spin money to the political class. Myopic, for sure as indicated by Obama’s dinner with Silicon Valley donors. The 2012 elections are well underway.
    OTOH, I am much more optimistic than Brian Hall. Times of transition are difficult, but I believe we will see many new opportunities arise in agriculture, biotech, computing and energy. Of course, our children must be well educated to take advantage of such change – the purpose of this blog, after all!

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