Ed Schultz is reporting with laser focus on the labor protests in Wisconsin and thank heavens he is, since there has been a virtual media blackout until yesterday when Fox News began to deploy its planned propaganda campaign against the
February 17, 2011

Ed Schultz is reporting with laser focus on the labor protests in Wisconsin and thank heavens he is, since there has been a virtual media blackout until yesterday when Fox News began to deploy its planned propaganda campaign against the protesters.

There are times where it's difficult for me to tell if Beck is crazy or sarcastic, and his opening shot about how the protesters are carrying signs with "violent rhetoric saying 'kill this bill'" is one of those times. Does he actually think there's a parallel to other right-wing protests with hateful signs?

At any rate, Ed does a great job of illustrating Beck's double standard, where it's perfectly fine for Tea Party protests organized by billionaires to be hailed as an act of patriotism. They're patriots. But when labor unions protest having their right to bargain stripped away, they're a bunch of kids stirring things up, and somewhere along the way, Beck managed to find a couple of kids who appeared to be a bit clueless about what the protests were about, calling them "useful idiots."

Useful idiots, eh? I wonder how Wisconsin school teachers feel about being called useful idiots, especially since Wisconsin public schools are among the best in the country.

ED: So remember, if you're a tea party protester, you're an idiot. If you're a labor protester, you're a useful idiot or a Muslim revolutionary.

The public excuse for the governor's move is a "budget crisis", but there is no crisis, not really.

As The Nation's John Nichols points out, there's "no question" that Governor Walker is cooking the books to break the unions. Unions already made sacrifices to balance the budget, which held everything in balance until Walker cut corporate taxes while raising individual taxes.

The governor’s budget repair bill, which includes the plan to gut collective bargaining protections for public employees, does not seek to get the state’s fiscal house in order.

Rather, it is seeks a political goal: destroying public employee unions, which demand fair treatment of workers and hold governors of both parties to account when they seek to undermine public services and public education.

Local blogger Dave von Ebers puts it in perspective:

Gov. Walker must have some enormous brass ones, considering Wisconsin’s individual income tax rates for 2011 range from a low of 5% to a high of 8% (the highest rate being some 60% higher than the new Illinois tax rate); while its corporate tax rate for 2010 is 7.9% (again, nearly a point higher than Illinois’ corporate tax rate).

In John Nichols' interview with Democracy Now, he elaborates:

What’s troubling to me is this talk of calling out the National Guard, this talk of really repressively putting down protests in the state of Wisconsin, a state with a great progressive tradition and a state that, as I said before, the rest of the country is watching. The fact is, Wisconsin is not broke. The Fiscal Bureau of Wisconsin just said in January that it will end this year with a $123 million surplus. So the fact of the matter is that this is not being done because of a lack of money. This is being done because political forces, conservative political forces, would like to disempower public employee unions and remove that voice for a strong public sector. That’s what austerity really translates as. And I do hope people keep an eye on what’s happening in Wisconsin with a similar eye to what they watch protests around the world with. This is a place where we really are going to see a critical test of whether workers have the right and also the power to demand fair play.

Nichols is right, of course. Scott Walker has just delivered the first ground assault against unions, which is part of a larger strategy. Ed does a great job of laying it out in this segment. Here's the strategy:

  1. Buy a few governors in key states.
  2. Launch stealth legislative assaults on public union workers, stripping them of their rights to bargain and/or strike.
  3. Use right-wing media (Fox News) to fearmonger about union violence.
  4. As memberships dwindle, so too do funds for political activity by unions.

Karl Rove confirmed it on Fox News.

Rove: "Every one of those 600,000 people had several hundred dollars worth of union dues going into the political coffers of their union to spend on politics. So yeah, you keep having a couple hundred thousand people each year. If a half a million people leave the labor union movement every year, pretty soon you start having a crimp in the political budget of these unions, it has a direct effect on the Presidential elections."

Out of the mouth of the man himself. As Ed says, that might be the most honest thing he's ever said.

A lot is at stake in Wisconsin, but Wisconsin isn't the only state where unions are at risk. Ohio Governor John Kasich is working hard to destroy them there, too, prompting large protests this week in Columbus over similar legislation brought forward by Republican state senators and endorsed by Kasich:

The Senate bill, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Shannon Jones, would eliminate collective bargaining rights and salary schedules for public employees across the state. GOP Gov. John Kasich has expressed his support for the bill in concept, but he has also signaled he may bring forth his own plan that could go even further — including banning public employee strikes.

In Idaho, legislation is pending which prohibits taxpayer money from going to union dues, effectively prohibiting public employees from unionizing.

The legislation would ban taxpayer money from going toward a labor organization for dues or to train workers, while also prohibiting school districts from including union activities in job descriptions or paying teachers for any time they spent on those activities. Most local union leaders are volunteers, but a handful work full-time on behalf of educators in Idaho's largest school districts, according to the union. These arrangements are bargained at the local level.

But there is good news. Thousands are standing for change. Right-wing assaults on labor unions have shaken people out of their seats and their stupors, put a name to the evil they understood but didn't know how to fight. This war is by no means behind us, but this is how it will be won. In the streets of state capitols, in the gatherings of people tired of dictatorial corporate masters, and by all of us standing in solidarity with them.

Howard Zinn: "Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can quietly become a power no government can suppress, a power than can transform the world."

Update: 11:00 AM: Wisconsin Senate Democrats have left the state in order to delay a vote on the measure, prompting a police search to bring at least one of them back for the vote.

Law enforcement is now searching for Democratic senators boycotting a Senate vote on Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair plan Thursday in an attempt to bring the lawmakers to the floor to allow Republicans to move forward with action on the bill.

One Democratic senator said that he believed at least most of the members of his caucus are in another state. At least one, however, Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) said he was still in his Capitol office listening to constituents.

In a press conference just off the Senate floor, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) said that Democrats were "not showing up for work" and that police were searching for them to bring them to the floor.

"That's not democracy. That's not what this chamber is about," Fitzgerald said of the boycott to reporters.

Update 3:20PM: Progressives are on the move now. OFA and DNC have both launched campaigns to bolster the Wisconsin protests. In addition to Wisconsin, a movement is also rising in Indiana and Ohio. Meanwhile, John Boehner completely misses the point (psst, Boehner, it's about government overreach, doncha know?), Bold Progressives has published an open letter in solidarity, and Fox News is in full-tilt meltdown mode. I have some great video of Megyn Kelly just having fits over the nerve of those people, coming soon.

Tomorrow's highlights will feature a noon rally in Madison featuring Richard Trumka as speaker, and there are rumors of walkouts all over the nation in solidarity with Wisconsin workers.

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