On Wisconsin

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I am not a comedian but my husband describes our normal dinner conversations as Improv 101.

Give me a place. Give me a color. Give me a career. Okay, got it.

We will land on a few disconnected topics — and the other night it was Wisconsin union protests, illegal organ trafficking, Mike Huckabee, and Indian hair extensions — and I’ll knit it all together while I’m eating enchiladas and doing a Soduku puzzle.

Okay, got it? Here we go.

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Let’s talk about Wisconsin. If anyone tells you this uproar is about unions or work, they are lying to you. It’s about using a crisis to consolidate power. It’s about weakening one political party — the one that takes union donations — and strengthening another. It’s about seizing an opportunity to fundamentally change the structure of a state government in a Vietnam-domino-theory philosophy of political brinkmanship.

But it’s not about unions or workers.

Because it if were about unions and workers, the law of supply/demand would kick in and free-market-humping politicians would have to admit that public sector jobs — which are critical & important to the safety and administration of the citizens of Wisconsin — would go unfilled if the state couldn’t offer long-term and deferred compensation benefits.

It’s not like teachers, state troopers, and public health employees work for the ‘sheer joy of working’. And they certainly don’t work for the short-term compensation package. Public sector jobs, while wholly necessary, are paid below market value. And they truly suck.

I can hear what you’re about to say. The rules have changed. Stage governments are bankrupt. If these commie government workers don’t want a job, they don’t have to take it.

Great. Except that tens of thousands of years of civilization tell us that we need public workers to do the important jobs that you and I won’t do for free. There is a market for ‘public sector labor’ because we are too lazy to police ourselves, clean our parks, and educate our stupid kids.

And that market — while cheap in the short-term — ain’t cheap in the long run. Nor should it be. Those jobs are unionized because they have a history of being devalued by powerful interest groups — governors, mayors, town councils. We skimp on a fair & decent wage in the immediate future for the promise of something greater when our public workers retire.

But let’s get back to the main point. This isn’t about the rights of public sector workers. Republicans are trying to bust collective bargaining agreements because unions donate to the Democratic party.

That’s it, dudes. There you go.

But politics aside, I have another problem with this whole situation in Wisconsin. As Americans, I believe that fighting against labor is fundamentally un-American. Are we Chinese? Why would we create a consumer-based economy and then wipe out the consumers? This makes no sense. What happens when we have a group of living, breathing, disempowered workers who have the ability to work but can’t find jobs?  (Answer: Egypt.)

Well, if you’re Mike Huckabee, you give the Americans a good dose of Jesus in 2012. God is good. God is great. God wants you to be rich — in the grand Osteenian tradition — except when you can’t be rich because you didn’t pray hard enough (and the jobs don’t really exist). The only solution Huckabee can offer in a declining economy is to forget about collective bargaining agreements and ‘secular humanism’ and tell you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. That’s what Jesus would do. And if you can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps, it’s not racism or sexism or ageism. It’s your fault. You must be a godless pagan or something.

And by the way, Huckabee and his ilk want you to keep having babies — because God and the government don’t believe in birth control — and if you can’t pay for your babies, that’s too bad. It’s not the government’s responsibility to take care of those children you birthed & can’t afford to educate. And maybe you shouldn’t have had sex, anyway. You need to pray more and follow the pious way of the Indians who donate their hair to cleanse themselves. Someone profits from your religious efforts — but it’s not you.

And if you’re jobless and have tried just about everything, don’t look to unions to help you when you can be industrious and donate your organs for money.

After all, you really only need one kidney.

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In all seriousness, I worry about what happens when we have a mass of people who don’t believe in their collective ability to bargain for something greater. When we give up on our voices, we actually squash the Reagan dream. Capitalism crashes. Democracy dies.

Remember that unions killed the Soviet stronghold in Poland. The Berlin Wall came down because young people organized. And women and minorities are protected in this country because Martin Luther King Jr. marched (and died) for sanitation workers in Memphis.

And I simply believe that giving up on public sector workers in Wisconsin — and the right to organize — might kill the American dream.

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