#wiunion just "became impossible to explain"
That was the reaction one person on Twitter had when I posted video of Madison bagpipers joining in on a reggae breakdown with singer-songwriter Michelle Shocked and local disco band VO5 at yesterday's rally. See for yourself:
Yes, what we witnessed there was both awesome and a little baffling much like how I suspect many non-Wisconsinites feel about the protests here in general. Honestly, it became difficult to properly explain what was happening here this historic, somewhat unprecedented explosion of solidarity as soon as people moved into the Capitol and set up an occupation in February.
You had to be here to really understand it all.
That's why people like Rev. Jesse Jackson, Michael Moore, Bradley Whitford, labor leaders and union members from around the country, and a whole host of others have all made regular pilgrimages to Madison. They can sense the history-in-the-making of it all.
Events have since moved away from the dizzying excitement of that first month to the hard work of recall petitioning and get out the vote efforts. That's easier to explain and digest on a national scale, but the importance of what's going on right here in the Badger State is not at all diluted. Even though much of the national media dropped the ball with their coverage, plenty of out-of-staters still followed along with great interest. And quite a few recognize, as we all do here, how crucial today's vote is.
Heck, that a state Supreme Court race is being paid attention to outside of Wisconsin should tell you just how big this has gotten.
And I do hope you're planning to head to the polls today, if you haven't already. I won't try to tell you who to vote for, but you know who I strongly endorse. Re-attaining something that actually resembles balance on the highest court in the state would go a long way toward ensuring that further Walker-style shenanigans are stopped in their tracks.
As Jackson had the crowd chanting yesterday, "Come alive April 5! Keep hope alive!"
Under cover of election day
Although they're previously stated that no vote on the fiscal portions of the governor's budget bill would come up for a vote until legal wrangling over other provisions was settled, Republicans in the Senate now appear to be signaling that they will bring them up for a vote today.
Anything to do with money had been set aside so that Republicans could vote on the collective bargaining part of the bill while their Democratic counterparts were out of state (of course, there's a good argument to be made that what was voted on did/will have a financial impact).
And although the Democratic leadership appears to support portions of the bill--mainly the refinancing that more than plug the projected $137 million shortfall for the current fiscal year--there are still, rightly, significant concerns over other major chunks of the plan.
Specifically, Rep. Peter Barca has pointed out that the bill would allow the state to take $28 million out of the Employee Trust Fund. Why the raid on worker's pensions? Walker wants to use the cash to pay for the state's portion of employee medical and pension contributions through 2013.
In other words, Walker wants to take money owed to workers in order to cover other money also owed to them. I don't know about you, but that sounds excessively shady to me.
No word on whether or not the GOP will try to stick back in the sale of state power plants to private operators in this half of the budget repair bill, but you can bet there are still plenty of other onerous provisions to worry about.
Pushing through a vote on Election Day would be just another chapter in the GOP playbook of dirty dealing, since most folks will be understandably distracted by other news and likely not paying as much attention to the Legislature.
Republicans lack foresight
I can come to no other conclusion, anyway, based on two factors:
- The GOP consistently tries to and is too-often successful pass legislation that tackles serious problems with short-term solutions that usually lead to worse scenarios down the line. Think TARP. Think the Iraq War. Think ignoring global climate change in favor of continuing to pump money into the oil and gas industry.
- Scott Walker is trying to pass a budget that would give him unprecedented powers, turning 50 percent of civil service jobs into political appointees, taking crucial rule-making powers away from the Legislature, and giving the governor the ability to accept or reject any state rules or regulations without review by anyone else.
Rampant patronage/nepotism hires are often costly, both in terms of the ridiculous salaries awarded to these chuckleheads and in terms of what's lost when it turns out they're maybe not so good at their jobs. Case in point: Walker appointed the son of a major campaign donor to an $81,500-a-year position overseeing environmental and regulatory matters at the Department of Commerce as it changes over to a private-public entity. Said son had no previous management experience and, from what I can tell, little in the way of work experience in general. He also boasts two drunken driving convictions and no college degree.
Yet now this guy is to be responsible for regulating things like "underground storage tanks and petroleum tanks and products." His father, it should be noted, is the executive vice president and lobbyist for the Wisconsin Builders Association. In addition to the acrid smell of inexperience, you should also be catching putrid whiffs of conflict-of-interest here.
This is hardly an isolated incident, either. Walker seems rather fond of appointing political hacks to important positions with beefy salaries despite his insistence that the state is "broke."
As for the rules-related neutering of the Legislature, what I want to know is: Do Walker and the Republicans realize that, if they pass this major restructuring of how our government is supposed to work, all of those powers will eventually pass on to a Democratic governor?
This is one of the same reasons I so strongly opposed (and still do) the so-called Frankenstein veto powers so greedily held on to by then-Gov. Jim Doyle. No one should have that kind of power, let alone the inevitable replacement leader with polar-opposite political views.
Apparently, however, the current GOP/Walker Administration players can't think that far into the future or simply don't care to. Instead, it's that same old short-term thinking at work, and we're all to suffer for it.
Vote vote vote!
If you haven't already, it's time to look up your polling place and head out to exercise your democracy! And please encourage everyone you know who's of legal age to do the same. I would say that this is an especially important election, but all elections are important. Just because some enjoy more public attention and flare than others doesn't mean we shouldn't all be more actively engaged in every vote that comes along.