(Big props to Matt Wisniewski for the footage) See part 1 here
How can you not be inspired and hopeful viewing this video of the Wisconsin protests?
One of the dangers of solely getting your information from television news is that in the insular, rarefied air inside the Beltway from where these pundits opine, these are merely abstract concepts: deficits, collective bargaining, unions, state employees, protests, budgets, fiscal austerity, and on and on.
But look at that video. Those aren't abstract concepts. Those are real people: just like you and I, our fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. They aren't fighting to keep obscene bonuses after needing the government to bail them out. They're not even protesting to get raises, just the right to keep their collective bargaining rights for the future.
And they are rising above the noise and bluster of right wing framing, and a complicit media who can't seem to grasp that there's a whole world outside of their cloistered cocktail circuit to fight for their right to a voice. And in doing so, they're exhibiting more understanding of democracy in six days than the Republicans would like to see the dying middle class exhibit in their life.
And make no mistake, there is a war going on and these protestors are not going to give in without a fight. My colleague Jon Perr writes about it on Perrspectives:
In just the latest front in the perpetual GOP campaign to divide and conquer, Republicans are trying to get Americans to turn on their neighbors who work for government and unions on each other. Of course, the Republican assault on collective bargaining rights for public employees in Wisconsin, Ohio, around the country has nothing to do with recession-ravaged state budgets and everything to do with fatally wounding a Democratic constituency. And to do it, Republican leaders are telling tall tales about rapidly expanding government workforces stuffed with overpaid, undeserving public employees.
Like so much else conservative mythmaking, it's simply not true.
The Mythical Pay Gap
With a sluggish U.S. economy, cash-strapped states and under-funded pension programs, leading lights of the GOP are scape-goating government workers and their unions for the nation's woes. Of course, there's only one problem with Rush Limbaugh's claim that public sector employees are "freeloaders" and the charge from Indiana Governor and GOP White House hopeful Mitch Daniels that they are a "new privileged class in America."
Perhaps the strongest recent broadside against public servants came from Minnesota Governor and 2012 Republican presidential contender Tim Pawlenty. In a December Wall Street Journal op-ed titled "Government Unions vs. Taxpayers," Pawlenty echoed half-term Governor Sarah Palin by targeting "unionized public employees [who] are making more money, receiving more generous benefits, and enjoying greater job security than the working families forced to pay for it with ever-higher taxes, deficits and debt."
How did this happen? Very quietly. The rise of government unions has been like a silent coup, an inside job engineered by self-interested politicians and fueled by campaign contributions.
Pawlenty repeated his charge to Fox News:
"You have public employees making more than their private-sector counterparts. They used to be under-benefited and underpaid. Now they're both over-benefited and overpaid...it needs to stop."
Sadly for would-be President Pawlenty, the charge - whether at the federal, state or local level - is false. That's the conclusion of a recent study by the Economic Policy Institute. Just one of many recent analyses debunking Republican charges about government workers and their unions, EPI found that "on average, state and local government workers are compensated 3.75% less than workers in the private sector." The report by Labor and Employment Relations Professor Jeffrey Keefe of Rutgers University revealed that public employees are undercompensated compared to similarly skilled private sector counterparts