Thursday, March 10, 2011 06:31 pm
The Kochs and the guv stir up a hornets’ nest
The Birchite billionaire Koch brothers and Walker, their gubernatorial hatchet man in the Badger State, have unwittingly done a tremendous favor for our country’s progressive movement. Thanks to them, America’s workaday majority has been awakened. With eyes wide open, middle-class working folks everywhere now have their attention riveted on Wisconsin, where a plutocratic, autocratic conspiracy between uber-wealthy corporate elites and obsequious GOP politicos has raised its ugly head for all to see.
Even before Walker was sworn in, Koch operatives were working with his transition team on a proposal that would summarily strip state and local workers of their hard-won right to bargain with their governmental bosses. Blinded by their flaming arrogance, the co-conspirators blithely assumed that Wisconsinites would just sit still for this, like sheep being fleeced. Bad miscalculation.
Collective bargaining literally is democracy at work – not something that working families take lightly. Nor should employers, for the process works, allowing 98 percent of union-employer disputes to be resolved with no strife.
Without it, workers know that they would be reduced to “collective begging,” so Wisconsinites saw the governor’s no-bargaining bill for exactly what it is: a raw attempt to extend authoritarian executive rule over the workplace, stifling the voice of workers and further shrinking middle-class possibilities in America.
Thus, the Koch-Walker cabal has not only been exposed, but has exploded nationwide. In a flash of spontaneous combustion, the schemers have become the poster boys of right-wing, laissez-fairyland greed, fueling mass protest rallies from coast to coast and reinvigorating the progressive movement.
Walker is little more than a hireling in the Koch brothers’ extremist political enterprise. They invested $43,000 directly into his gubernatorial campaign last year, making them his second largest donor. David Koch also gave $1 million to the Republican Governors Association, a donation that leveraged a $5 million RGA expenditure in the Wisconsin race. In addition, a Koch-funded front group, Americans for Prosperity, pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state in an AstroTurf campaign to benefit Walker.
Just before the election, Koch Industries opened a lobbying office only a few doors down the street from the Wisconsin Capitol. Will it shock you to learn that shortly after taking office, the grateful governor quietly tucked two very special provisions into his union-busting bill that could cause the Kochs’ political investment to pay off handsomely?
One provides favorable new regulations for pipeline transporters. The second is a stunning proposal allowing the governor to sell, without legislative oversight, publicly owned power plants to private corporations on a no-bid basis. Guess who just happens to be in the pipeline and power plant business? Right.
Walker, heretofore an unknown in national politics, has now made a name for himself: His name is mud. Indeed, his tactics give new meaning to the term “Badger State.” In his desperation to ram his bill into law, he has been caught lying, planning to fire thousands of state employees in a despicable political ploy to pressure state Senate Democrats, considering a strategy of “planting some troublemakers” in the crowds protesting him and eagerly accepting the idea of going on “a good time” celebratory junket with David Koch if the bill passes.
Astonishingly, the governor has tried to rationalize his radical assault on worker rights by claiming that he’s merely doing what voters elected him to do. Two problems with this assertion: First, two-thirds of Wisconsinites say they oppose such a power grab, with only 24 percent favoring it; and second, Walker never mentioned a word about gutting bargaining rights during his campaign. If he had, says a recent poll, he would’ve lost.
Indeed, Walker’s approval rating has plummeted to 44 percent as news of his knavery spread. As the old adage puts it, two things not long for this world are dogs that chase cars and politicians who lie to the people.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.