Monday, February 21, 2011

Wisconsin Uprising and All That

The uproar in Wisconsin has awaken my desire to blog.

The fight over the right of public sector unions to collectively bargain is an interesting question. In principle, I would tend to be on the side of ending this right. Unlike unions in the private sector, public sector unions are bargaining with elected officials who have little incentive to hold the line since these unions are major voting interests.

On the other hand, it is pretty transparent that this is an attempt to break a key voting block on the Democratic side of the spectrum at the same time that the Supreme Court has opened up the spigots for corporate donations with their Citizens United Decision.

In this case it is hard not to agree with Krugman:

In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate.

Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.

You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.

The irony, however, is that what the unions and right thinking people should be fighting is not for public sector union fighting power but a consensus that will cut subsidies for heating for low-income households so that the estate tax can be reduced and taxes can be cut for the super-rich.

Why doesn't anybody protest that? The contrived budget crisis caused by excessive tax cuts is the real shame.

1 comment:

Rich said...

Like Krugman alot, almost as much as Stiglitz! I agree with you 100%, the protests should be about the ultra-rich gaming the system, screwing the middle class and poor and getting richer in the process! I am glad to see people getting angry though, hopefully its a crack in the wall of Americans ignorance about what is happening to them that will gain momentum. Would love to see 20-30 Million in the streets protesting the "Citizens United" Decision by the Supremes, which is destroying whats left of our "Democracy"...