Friday, February 25, 2011

The Grand Strategy

On occasion, the Los Angeles Times amazes me by publishing something that examines an issue with acumen, and then actually comes to what I consider the right conclusion. Today was was one of those days.

In an analysis piece by-lined by Mark Z. Barabak, LAT looks at the fight over public employees' rights to union representation going on in several Midwestern states and finds the real basis for the struggle.

The labor fight blazing in Madison, Wis., and other state capitals is more than a feud over budgets or the rights of government employees. It is a battle that could fundamentally change the practice of politics in this country, with enormous consequences in 2012 and beyond.

By striking at organized labor, a pugnacious group of Republican governors is hitting at the heart of the Democratic Party, which banks heavily on union money and manpower. That explains the resistance from the White House, Democrats in Congress and, most fiercely, their liberal allies from New York to California.

Once the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United granting First Amendment rights to corporations and unions with respect to campaign donations, the Republicans have been scurrying to find ways to cut out the union half of the decision. It doesn't take a rocket scientist or a brain surgeon to figure out ways to accomplish this.

"It's very simple. Wealthy individuals and corporations can still give six-, seven-, eight-figure checks to all the candidates, state parties and causes they want to," said Michael Fraioli, a Democratic strategist who works closely with organized labor. "If you take away unions and their ability to organize … you cut at the heart of our financial support."

And the timing was perfect. State budgets have been drenched in red ink because of the economic freefall of 2008. Private sector jobs have dried up and continue shrinking. Tax revenues are way down, yet ongoing costs continue to rise. One sizable chunk of those expenses go to salaries, healthcare and pension benefits for state employees. That makes them an easy target, especially since many of their counterparts in the private sector find themselves without any of those benefits.

And it is no accident that the fight has broken out in states like Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio.

No region of the country has suffered a more devastating loss of high-paying manufacturing jobs or private-sector union positions, which makes the ranks of unionized government employees — with their job security, healthcare and guaranteed pensions — a source of resentment.

The irony, of course, is that those high-paying manufacturing jobs have been lost for the most part by corporate decisions to outsource those jobs to other countries to maximize profits. Government employees didn't cause the problem, but because they weren't directly affected (until at least now), they are resented.

Also ironically, the government employee unions in Wisconsin have already indicated a willingness to return to the bargaining table on the issue of benefits and to accept reductions in all three categories. If budgetary considerations were the real issue, Governor Walker would have accepted the unions' offer, but that wasn't and isn't what this is all about.

The real fight is to destroy unions, all of them. That would give our owners a clear field in 2012 and forever after. Unless, of course, the rest of us beat this whole notion back to the Stone Age, which is where it belongs.

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Anonymous grrljock said...

Diane, did you see Paul Krugman's column on this issue (I read this via Digby)? Sadly, I think he's right that union-busting is but one of the main objective of the Shock Doctrine. So depressing.

11:35 AM  

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