Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says his party will not be “bullied” or “intimidated.” By peaceful protests. Did he get cheese with that whine? (More)

Whine & Cheese, Part III – The People’s Vintage (Non-Cynical Saturday)

This week Morning Feature sampled our national whines. Thursday we sipped a common variety: This Problem Shouldn’t Exist. Yesterday we tasted a more full-bodied vintage: That Solution Won’t Fix Everything. Today we ask Fred for a better whine list.

Bullies and Thugs and Goons, Oh My!

You probably missed the photos and videos of “union thugs” and “goons” who “bullied” and “intimidated” Wisconsin legislators in “violent protests” over Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to abrogate public employee union contracts. You missed those photos and videos because it hasn’t happened. Yes, nine people were arrested. One may have tried to enter the Assembly chamber. If the police have released a statement about the arrests, I couldn’t find it.

But that hasn’t stopped right-wing bloggers from characterizing the arrests. Google [Wisconsin protest violence] and you get hits to spinmeister Andrew Breitbart’s “shocking” videos – I won’t give the link – of a few signs comparing Gov. Walker to Adolf Hitler or Hosni Mubarak. The signs are as absurd as Tea Party signs that say the same about President Obama.

I guess teachers and kids carrying signs can be pretty scary. Can you imagine if they’d been carrying guns? Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) said “Americans have a constitutional right to stand up and tell off those in power.” Except teachers and other civic employees, because Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) says “This is not the way public servants should behave.” Thank goodness Gov. Walker says his party won’t be “bullied” or “intimidated.” At least in Wisconsin there should be good cheese with that whine.

The People’s Voice

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the “of the people to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.” The drafters of the Wisconsin Constitution apparently didn’t like split infinitives, but they got the gist of it:

The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.

In Wisconsin, we’re hearing the people’s voice. Of course, conservatives who spent two years protesting because Republicans lost elections in 2008 say the progressives should shut up now because Republicans won elections in 2010. Except the First Amendment and Article I, Section 4 of the Wisconsin Constitution don’t exclude Democrats, progressives, union members, or public employees. So yes, Sen. Hatch, public servants should behave that way.

“Ahh,” I hear conservatives thinking, “but these union thugs aren’t consulting ‘for the common good.’ They’re trying to protect their own salaries and pensions.”

Oh really. Labor unions fought for the 40-hour workweek, the minimum wage, and child labor laws that protect all American workers. Labor unions fought for workplace safety rules that protect other workers. And their victories are not all in the past. Labor unions raise wages for low-income workers by 20.6%, and wages for median income workers by 13.7%. Workers are people, and labor unions are part of the people’s voice.

Worked out fully in the mind.

On Thursday I began with a definition of whine: “to complain or protest” in a way that is not “worked out fully in the mind.” The protesters in Wisconsin, and now also in Ohio, have fully worked out their complaints in their minds.

They know that state and local governments are the single largest employer in the US economy, and that most union employees are government workers. Those public union employees not only teach our kids, police our neighborhoods, respond to our fires, maintain our roads, and perform countless other essential social functions. They also keep the rest of our wages from dropping through the floor in corporate America’s “race to the bottom.”

They also know that Gov. Walker created the budget crisis he’s now trying to solve by breaking public employee unions. Yes, over half of Wisconsin’s projected budget shortfall is due to bills that Gov. Walker pushed through in his first days in office, including $48 million in for private health savings accounts and $67 million in tax breaks for businesses. That doesn’t include the estimated $100 million cost of scrapping high-speed rail. He broke the budget, and now he wants public employees to pick up the tab.

Or, protesters worked out fully in their minds, Gov. Walker broke the state budget in order to break public employee unions.

The protesters are not “thugs” or “goons.” They are the people’s voice, exercising their constitutional rights and duties as citizens. That’s not whining.

But Gov. Walker is. At least there’s plenty of cheese nearby.


Happy Saturday!